5th Circuit Panel questions federal jurisdiction in USA v Minor

First, a big SLABBED welcome to Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and an equally big thank you for including a transcript of Paul Minor’s Appeal in her post on the story.

Had the transcripts not been available, I would have been left to puzzle over the concept of subject matter jurisdiction: The power of a court to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong; and, 18USC.666: Theft or bribery concerning programs receiving Federal funds.

The panel of Fifth Circuit judges hearing Paul Minor’s Appeal, however, came to my rescue with a really interesting discussion of the issues.  In doing so, they not only helped this non-lawyer understand one of the controversial aspects of Minor’s case, but one that is also a factor in USA v DeLaughter and was in USA v Scruggs as well.

In his Motion for Bill of Particulars, Judge DeLaughter asked the USA to:

  • Identify with specificity the particular “state and local government” entity of which Judge DeLaughter is alleged to be an agent.
  • Identify with specificity the “government and judicial agency” that allegedly “received in a one-year period benefits in excess of $10,000 under a federal program…”

Although the question of quid pro quo was the primary focus of  DeLaughter’s Motion to Inspect Grand Jury Minutes, the underlying issue of there incorporates concerns about “666” – the shorthand reference to this section of the Code. Continue reading “5th Circuit Panel questions federal jurisdiction in USA v Minor”

Breaking: Zach Scruggs gets 14 months in prison for failing to report an attempt to influence a state court judge (UPDATED)

Sun Herald reporting

OXFORD –Zach Scruggs gets 14 months in prison for failing to report an attempt to influence a state court judge.

His father, Dickie Scruggs, was sentenced to the maximum 5 years in prison Friday for conspiring to bribe the judge. U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. presided over the case.

Clarion Ledger

The son of powerful trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs will like his father will be headed off to prison next month, a federal judge ruled today.

Although federal prosecutors recommended probation, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers sentenced Zach Scruggs, 33, to 14 months in prison and fined him $250,000 for having after-the-knowledge of a scheme to bribe a Lafayette County judge to get a favorable ruling in a legal fees dispute.

Continue reading “Breaking: Zach Scruggs gets 14 months in prison for failing to report an attempt to influence a state court judge (UPDATED)”

Transcript of the Scruggs Sentencing Hearing Now Online at the Sun Herald

The Mississippi paper furthest from the action has the best coverage today IMHO. Anita Lee once again does a stellar job and even Scruggs fatigued Sop found it fascinating and sobering reading.

And I received these letters from your friends about how sentencing would affect you and your wife and your daughter, and I have sympathy for you in that respect. Your wife, I understand, is a fine lady; and her health is very delicate. But there’ s no question that your wife and daughter are going to be better provided for in your absence than anybody else I ‘ve ever heard that has come before the Court.

(Mr Scruggs falters) Continue reading “Transcript of the Scruggs Sentencing Hearing Now Online at the Sun Herald”

Breaking: Scruggs Gets 5 Years and a $250K Fine (Updated)

Anita Lee has the updated story which contains his reporting date of August 4:

Dickie Scruggs received the maximum 5 years in prison in $250,000 in fines for a crime Judge Neal D. Biggers Jr. called “reprehensible. 

Before sentencing, Scruggs told the judge, “I could not be more ashamed to be where I am today. I realized I was getting mixed up in it and I will go to my grave wondering why. I have disappointed everyone in my life – my wife, family and friends here to support me today. I deeply regret my conduct. It is a scar and a stain on my soul.” Continue reading “Breaking: Scruggs Gets 5 Years and a $250K Fine (Updated)”

USA wants to play Price is Right – Come on down Grady!

Late yesterday the Sun Herald went on-line with the news that the USA was going to put Oxford attorney Grady Tollison on the stand at the sentencing of Dick Scruggs – talk about news!

The attorney opposing Dickie Scruggs in the lawsuit that led to his downfall has been subpoenaed to testify for prosecutors Friday morning at Scruggs’ sentencing hearing.

Anyone want to guess why?

It seems Grady and his now-client John Jones previously-opposing-counsel in McIntosh v State Farm forgot something – about $25 million somethings to be exact. Continue reading “USA wants to play Price is Right – Come on down Grady!”

Letters for Dickie: Dr Mac Speaks Out

Considering the distance involved from the coast to Oxford, Anita Lee at the Sun Herald has done a superlative job covering the judicial bribery scandal from afar and the respect others have for her as a reporter shines through in today’s edition of the Sun Herald as evidenced by the complete copies of the letters sent Judge Biggers by Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat and Ole Miss Law School Dean Samuel Davis which she obviously obtained directly from the two gentleman.

While others run off in hot pursuit of Chancellor Khayat because he used a piece of paper that belonged to the University for his letter we’ll concentrate on the letter from someone helped by Dickie Scruggs, our very own slabbed Dr Wesley McFarland, who’s letter was also reprinted in it’s entirety by the Sun Herald. Dr Mac is getting up in years and that shows through in his letter as does his sincerity. So while others so easily prescribe a harsh sentence for the judicial bribery participants, Dr McFarland exhibits the complexity of emotion of those on the receiving end of both the bad faith exhibited by State Farm and the hope Dickie Scruggs brought by taking them on after Katrina.  Here is the text of Dr Mac’s letter:

April 6, 2008

Ref: Attorney Richard Scruggs

Dear Judge Biggers:

This is the most difficult letter I have ever had to write. Continue reading “Letters for Dickie: Dr Mac Speaks Out”

Khayat’s letter “parts a curtain” for Scruggs

Today was a read-letter day in Oxford. Anita Lee told the story for the Sun Herald filing updates throughout the day.

We’re in a race at the federal courthouse in Oxford to see who has written letters about Dickie Scruggs before he is sentenced Friday for conspiring to bribe a state court judge.

Three journalists and a lawyer-blogger are here. We are playing nice, sharing information as we scan the bound volumes, looking for big names…

One of the big names was Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat – “as expected” according to all the reports I’ve read – and, “as expected” here on SLABBED, critical comment followed. However, Robert Khayat is an extraordinary man – one known for uncommon courage in the face of injustice; a man whose letter was, as Eudora Welty wrote,

…an attempt to part a curtain, that invisible shadow that falls between people, the veil of indifference to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight. Continue reading “Khayat’s letter “parts a curtain” for Scruggs”

Sam Friedman on Dickie Scruggs and the Courtroom as a Profit Center

The recent New Yorker article on Dickie Scruggs has been a popular subject in the blogesphere. Personally I’m suffering from Scruggs fatigue and will disclose I personally think that drama is largely over. P. L. Blake could change all that and more of course, but it is hard to see the incentive for the elderly Blake to cooperate with federal investigators at this point.

My experience has been that the best discussions I’ve seen or participated in on the topic of Dickie Scruggs and/or coastal insurance issues have been with people who work in the insurance industry that are not practicing lawyers. That is not a slap at the bar as much an admission on my part of the type people my life experiences cause me to better identify. I guess that is why some of my favorite commenters here on slabbed hail from the industry even though we don’t exactly see eye to eye on many of these issues.

This brings me to Sam Friedman, Editor In-Chief of the National Underwriter, a property and casualty trade publication with whom I’ve had the pleasure of chatting on occasion. Sam’s blog graces our selective blogroll because of his even handed treatments of these important issues. We don’t agree on the need for the HR3121 multi-peril insurance concept or whether the Bloomberg Article The Insurance Hoax was a complete hatchet job. 😉 However, Sam does recognize the insurance problems we opine about so much here on slabbed. Reasonable people can disagree and yet still work together to find good solutions to mutually identified problems. Sam is such a person. Continue reading “Sam Friedman on Dickie Scruggs and the Courtroom as a Profit Center”

All in this together? I’ll say!

The attorney-client privilege relates to and covers all information regarding the client received by the attorney in his professional capacity and in the course of his representation of the client. Barnes v. State, 460 So. 2d 126, 131 (Miss. 1984). Included are communications made by the client to the attorney and by the attorney to the client. Id. Only the client may invoke the privilege and the attorney has no standing to invoke the privilege if the client does not wish to. Id. Like the attorney client privilege, the work- product doctrine insulates a lawyer’s research, analysis of legal theories, mental impressions, notes, and memoranda of witnesses’ statements from an opposing counsel’s inquiries. Dunn, supra, at 875.

So writes the attorney Grady Tollison filing the Motion to Quash Notice of Depostion and for Protective Order on behalf of his client, Jones who formerly represented McIntosh in McIntosh v State Farm.

Jones has relevant, non-privileged factual information that is highly material to the claims and defenses in this case … about the whereabouts of an original engineering report on the McIntosh property.

Judge Walker granted the motion to quash saying:

State Farm offers nothing but speculation that Jones had any information whatsoever about any original engineering report.

But maybe it was more than speculation?  Mr. Grady Tollison, Jr. also represents Mr. David Stanovich (who was an agent of State Farm) while representing Jones according to the Plaintiffs’ response to motion in opposition by State Farm. Continue reading “All in this together? I’ll say!”