For Immediate Release
Kings of Tort available on December 2nd
The amazing story behind tort magnate Dickie Scruggs’s judicial bribery scandal is presented by Pediment Publishing. Kings of Tort is the authoritative work on documenting this nationally known story and the relatively unknown 25 year history behind it. The book will be made available in retail outlets throughout the country on December 2nd. More Information including advance ordering of the book is available at www.kingsoftort.com.
Kings of Tort chronicles the sordid tale of judicial bribery and political intrigue in Mississippi, birthplace of the tobacco litigation and long known as one of the most tort-friendly jurisdictions in the nation. It features the story of Dickie Scruggs, who was largely credited with bringing down Big Tobacco in the early 1990s. From his ascent to a net worth of nearly a billion dollars to his seemingly unfathomable downfall stemming from his role in attempting to corrupt two local judges by improperly influencing the outcome of cases, the book documents how those in Scruggs’s own trusted circle of tort barons turned on him and cooperated with federal authorities. It also shows the political influence he wielded with judges, attorneys general, and even his own brother-in-law, former US Senator Trent Lott.
The Dickie Scruggs judicial bribery case has been covered extensively by the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, New York Times, LA Times, The Clarion-Ledger, Sun Herald and dozens of other Mississippi and national media outlets. Scruggs’s story during his meteoric rise through the Big Tobacco litigation was documented on PBS Frontline, ABC’s 20/20, and CBS’s 60 Minutes. Eventually, the 60 Minutes story became the subject of a movie, “The Insider,” featuring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.
The book also chronicles the legal bribery story of Scruggs confidante and tobacco lawsuit partner Paul Minor, son of Mississippi political columnist Bill Minor. He was convicted, along with the two judges he improperly influenced, and is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence. Minor is currently fighting his conviction on appeal from prison through his attorney Abbe Lowell, who defended former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial.
Kings of Tort is an engaging read that examines the power of these tort barons and the unmistakable pattern of how corporate defendants were trapped in what Scruggs called “magic jurisdictions” and subject to coordinated political, criminal and civil pressure to produce enormous settlements. It’s a must read for those interested in the legal profession, politics or just a fascinating human story of greed and hubris.
About the Book
Gleaned from published media reports, court documents and interviews from many of the key players, the book was written by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson. Lange is a businessman from Jackson, Mississippi, and runs the widely acclaimed political website YallPolitics, which focuses on politics and law in Mississippi. Dawson, from Oxford, Mississippi, is a former Assistant US Attorney who retired from his position in early January 2009. His highly decorated career as an Assistant US Attorney and Associate Independent Counsel with the Department of Justice spanned over three decades and he served under seven presidents. As lead prosecutor on the Scruggs case, Dawson had a bird’s eye view of the largest judicial bribery scandal in Mississippi history. (Important Note: Dawson has strictly complied with all state and federal ethics rules in participating in this book including federal rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governing the nondisclosure of matters occurring before a grand jury. He did no writing of the book nor had any agreement to write a book while still an employee of the Dept. of Justice.)
Lange and Dawson have conducted extensive research with over 200 external reference citations to over 100 different sources documenting the story. Lead author Alan Lange stated, “So much of this story has been reported on in bits and pieces in the media. By putting all of the sources in one place for public review along with the narrative, we allow the readers to decide the truth on this complex story for themselves.” The entire reference section in the back of the book has been made available for free at the KingsOfTort.com website. This online reference section is fully linkable and takes readers to all of the court records, media reports and book references that documented the various parts of this amazing story.
Books will be available at local bookstores and retailers throughout the Southeast and available nationally through online booksellers on December 2, 2009.
About the Publisher
Pediment Publishing is based in Battle Ground, Washington and publishes a wide range of books often partnering with newspapers and other media organizations for non fiction, compilation publications of all types. In 2008, Pediment published “Boo: A Life In Baseball Well Lived” documenting the storied career of Mississippi-born, Boston Red Sox great Boo Ferriss. That book was written by Clarion Ledger sports columnist Rick Cleveland with a foreword by best selling author John Grisham. More information about Pediment can be found at www.pediment.com.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
“I’ll take care of it.”
There was no jury or judge in sight, but on November 1, 2007 Tim Balducci was preparing to give the closing of his heretofore undistinguished legal career. A few hours before, he had been confronted by the FBI after delivering a $10,000 cash bribe to State Court Judge Henry Lackey. Although Balducci had just turned forty, he could easily be mistaken for someone much younger. With dark hair and glasses, he looked right at home in his red pickup truck that he drove from town to town practicing law across northeast Mississippi. For the last several months the FBI had monitored him via a court ordered wiretap after he made an inappropriate overture to Judge Lackey in March 2007. Life as Tim Balducci had known it had come to an end. Within minutes of being confronted with irrefutable evidence of what he’d done, Balducci had turned. The first domino in Operation Benchmark had fallen. He now had a new client—the United States government. While the investigation was not yet complete, prosecutors already knew from the evidence they had gathered that the man squarely in the gun sights of the ongoing probe was the reputed King of Torts, Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs.
That same afternoon of November 1, 2007, Balducci paid a visit to the Scruggs Law Firm in Oxford, forty miles from where the FBI intercepted him. Zach Scruggs, the son of tort magnate Dickie Scruggs, and Sidney Backstrom were two young partners in the firm. They both knew about the scheme to improperly influence the judge. Balducci told them of a slight change in plans. Judge Henry Lackey was asking for more money in exchange for compelling a $26.5 million fee dispute with other lawyers to arbitration.
After discussing a few other pending legal matters, a remarkably calm Balducci started honing in on the matter at hand. The transcripts from the wire Balducci was wearing tell the tale.
“The other piece of this puzzle I hadn’t told you yet is uh, get it how you want it because I’ve gotta go back for another bushel of sweet potatoes down there,” Balducci said.
“Down there” was Calhoun City, Mississippi, in Judge Lackey’s courtroom, but he wasn’t talking about groceries. “Sweet potatoes” was code for bribe money.
Balducci went on, “So get it right. Get it how you want it ’cause we’re paying for it to get it done right.”
Balducci had been involved in every level of the scheme to bribe Judge Lackey and he was cooperating fully with government officials. The titillation of such a huge scandal with a cooperating co-conspirator was too much for the media and the public to ignore. The downfall of Dickie Scruggs, a giant in the tort lawsuit industry, was unraveling in slow motion, and he was fighting it all the way. The man who brought down Big Tobacco was about to have two decades of his legal dirty laundry exposed.
Within six months, after much bluster and the best legal defense money could buy, Dickie Scruggs, Sid Backstrom, Tim Balducci, Steve Patterson, and Joey Langston all pleaded guilty for their roles in a judicial bribery scheme. Scruggs’s son, Zach, pleaded guilty to a lesser felony. All were sentenced to prison. The King of Torts had been toppled from his throne.
As much as this seems ripped out of a John Grisham novel, it isn’t. This is a true story of twenty-five years of backwater politics in the Deep South. So many have been stunned by these revelations and want to know whether bribing judges is a recent addition to Scruggs’s way of doing things or just part of the game plan all along. Regardless, the fairy tale story of a boy from Pascagoula, Mississippi, who made a billion dollars learning how to extract mammoth settlements from big corporations had ended, and all the money in the world couldn’t buy his way out.