Tuesday, December 23, 2008

P.L. Blake

The Tobacco Litigation produced millions in attorney's fees. But, it also produced billions in programs for states to combat smoking or billions to compensate states for the costs of dealing with the health problems of those who smoked cigarettes.

The primary person pursuing such objectives saw fit to hire a political operative originally from Greenville, Mississippi to assist in the effort. An agreement was reached for his services -- $50 million.

His name is P. L. Blake. It would be interesting to know what, exactly, his role was in the process of the Tobacco Litigation.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Carl Orff and Betrayal

We learn this week that Carl Orff the composer of the famed Carmina Burana was a man who betrayed a friend. One could say he really did not betray is friend, merely did not come to his aid. The friend, Kurt Huber was a found of the Munich unit of an anti-Nazi resistance group during he war called "The White Rose." Kurt Huber was arrested by the Gestapo. His wife asked Orff to intervene. He refused choosing to protect himself. Huber was later hung by the Gestapo.

After the war, in order to establish himself as a candidate for de-nazification, Orff told a United States intelligence officer, a man named "Jenkins that he had co-founded Die Weisse Rose with his friend, Kurt Huber." Richard Morrison, Carl Orff, the composer who lived a monstrous lie, The Times on Line, December 19, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Joey Langston and John Dean

From what I read, many are saying what a good guy Joey Langston is. They say he has done a lot of good. They say in his sentencing coming up, the judge should be lenient. Not only because he is a good guy but because he has gone out of his way to help the prosecution in the conviction of those he worked with when he and Steve Balducci tried to bribe Judge Bobby DeLaughter.

I do not know what to make of this. But, it reminds me of my opinions of John Dean and the part he played in Watergate and the part he played bringing those he had worked with to justice. His efforts seemed opportunistic. He seemed to be the same person I had dinner with one night at Egil "Bud" Krogh's house in Chevy Chase. A person I thought of at the time as "just a bit too slick."

While it is good that we have such people concerned for justice following their own injustices. It seems just bit untoward (sleazy) . however, that they seem to step forward with relish in making themselves into "good guys" as they use the opportunity to bring down friends so as to gain easy and light sentences. Seems everything is relative. Seems everything is "for sale" so to speak.

As I recall, Bud Krogh asked to be sentenced before he cooperated with the prosecution. Now that's a person with good sense and good ethics.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Speculation: New Indictments

Some are speculating that new indictments will issue soon from a federal grand jury sitting in northern Mississippi. The speculation has to do with Richard Scruggs and the alleged bribery of Judge "Bobby" Delaughter in a fee case involving a number of players. One thing about this Mississippi situation is that it will come to us with the bark on, so to speak, if there is a situation to come to us.

One suspects lawyer-judge shenanigans go on all the time but in a much more subtle way in other jurisdictions. Indeed, in some jurisdictions it is not necessary to promise anything to the judge. All one has to do is to ensure that the judge understands that friends and others will think highly of him or her if he or she "does the right thing." In Mississippi people still do such things for money, or so it seems. At least, in Mississippi, there is a certain honesty, even
"transparency" as they say.

Elk in a clearing.

This is a picture of a herd of elk in a clearing in a forest in northeastern Washington. I say not where to protect the herd. I find it hard to understand why anyone would gain pleasure from killing one of these creatures. But, I suppose I find it hard to understand why anyone would gain pleasure from harming any living thing.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Basic Truth

This painting troubles me. It has something to say about the motivations of the people in the Scruggs Matter, all of the people, and at every stage and aspect. From the desire to win, the desire to capture, the desire to escape punishment by helping the prosecutors inflict punishment on others, the desire for fame and professional approval, the desire to be a part of treachery. When one thinks of it, one is hard-pressed to find real proof of the assurance of a single laudable motive at work in the hearts of any one of the players in this sordid drama -- Dick Scruggs, Steve Balducci, Joey Langston, Edward Peters, Bobby DeLaughter, Judge Henry Lackey, Judge Biggers, the whole lot.

We like to think there are good guys and bad guys, but I wonder. I wonder if in the heart of things, in the heart of all of the people who played a part, there is not something pervasive and sad, something corrupt. We will only know if the heart of each is honest and dares to express the subtlety of human motivations. Were he to do so, it would be up to each of us to understand, to express grace and forgiveness if it is in our power to forgive.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

More Treachery in Mississippi

News is coming from Mississippi telling of the efforts of Joey Langston to help the U.S. Attorney in his efforts regarding the Judge Bobby Delaughter influence matter. Seems Langston and Steve Balducci were engaged in some effort to influence Judge Delaughter using his old friend and mentor Edward Peters. Peters apparently got $1 million. Langston and Balducci pled guilty to some relatively minor charges. Now they are helping the U.S. Attorney gain new indictments against Dick Scruggs, the lawyer, Langston and Balducci were working for.

The matter is a real sorry mess. But, the truly frightening thing for me is this: The legal system uses treachery to gain indictments and convictions. What is the treachery here? It is the apparent fact that Langston using his involvement and perhaps instigation of a wrong of judicial influence and bribery to put his friend and client in jail. The common excuse for this is that government has to make bargains with the devil to bring other devils to justice. This is commonly accepted within our system of "justice."

The principles at work are expressed by the aphorisms used -- law is not about justice, it is war and in war there are no principles, you can only get the bad guy by using the same techniques bad guys use, the guy the government is going after is really a "bad guy," and he deserves no fairness, life is tough, get over it, -- and so it goes.

The real principle at work is this -- the end justifies the means.

So where do we go when this principle reaches into every part of our civilization, our culture. Our culture becomes one based only on the principle of expediency as determined by those in power from time to time.

Do we have to become evil in order to control evil?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lerach -- Lessons for those in Prison

William Lerach is serving time at Lompoc near Santa Barbara for doing bad things as a lawyer.

Now he is in more trouble and may have to serve harder time for his wrongdoing. Seems he suggested to a guard who likes sports that the guard could use his season tickets to the games of some professional sports team. Here is a story about Mr. Lerach's current predicament.

You are not supposed to say such things, suggest you might do such things. It makes sense. for sure.

There is a lesson to be learned for those under the microscope of others: Do not presume anyone on the prison staff is or should be your friend. Withdraw into yourself. Keep your distance. Do no indulge in your motivations of good will. Certainly, do not indulge in your motivations of ill will. Detach yourself. Pursue more meaningful things. Become an observer, cease to be a participant. Try to understand. Have compassion which does not attach. Let your compassion float over to yourself and try to understand something of yourself that you never had time to attempt to understand. Give yourself a break. Let yourself alone for a while.

Monday, July 14, 2008

This morning I sent a comment to Folo asking Observer to expand on a statement he made. So far no response from Observer or anyone else for that matter. Maybe the thread has been closed, maybe people just got bored with the questions I was raising. Here is what I said and asked:

Observer - In the past you said “In the post-Paul Minor world, Judge Lackey apparently was afraid someone was trying to set him (i.e., Judge Lackey) up. The people that were hunting for Dickie Scruggs was the FBI. Judge Lackey found himself in an awful position.”

Do you think he (Judge Lackey) may have thought someone was working with Tim Balducci to set him up?

Do you think he knew anything about, or had heard rumors about, the Wilson Case in Judge DeLaughter’s court?

Do you think he thought there was surveillance of him independent of Balducci?
I think the judge even said somewhere he was concerned that someone might be looking at him back in March of 2007.

The entry and the thread can be found here at Folo.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Judge Lackey: Questions, Something Does Not Ring True

I am still confused and suspicious of how the FBI got to Dick Scruggs. The agent for the FBI was a Mississippi Circuit Judge, Henry Lackey.

Judge Lackey was assigned the Jones v. Scruggs case. The day of the assignment he entered an ex parte order sealing the case file. Common law makes case records public records. He signed the order because the lawyer for Jones, a man named Tollison asked to sign the order.

Next, a Tim Balducci calls Judge Lackey. He contends the case should be sent to arbitration. Balducci is a friend of Dick Scruggs.

Here is where it gets interesting. On more than one occasion on the Folo Blog commentators have said that Judge Lackey thought he his actions might be under surveillance. Supposedly, he waited about two weeks before he said he went to the United States Attorney who then put him in contact with the FBI.

One commentor said that Judge Lackey became physically ill after his meeting with Mr. Balducci.

What I am struggling with is why Judge Lackey would become physically ill or, if not physically ill, emotionally distraught. I wonder? Did Judge Lackey really think that he might be under surveillance? Why would he have thought that? Was he aware of what was happening or possibly happening regarding Judge DeLaughter in the Wilson case?

Why would the judge think that he might be under surveillance? Did the judge have a reason to think his conduct, in the past, and as a judge might have caused someone to become suspicious of him?

From the judge's testimony and public statements it does not seem that he was troubled very much by what Tim Balducci had asked him to do, if he had really ask him anything. He did not seem to be the type of guy who would be come physically ill because a lawyer may have earwigged him.

That he became ill because Balducci approached him is, well, it its beyond reason.

So, why did Judge Lackey become ill? Why did he think the FBI may have been surveiling him? Was it because he was talking to Balducci and he thought the FBI may have been surveiling Balducci? But if that was the case why did he wait so long to go to the US Attorney. Was it because he had been the situation before? Was talking to judges "out of school" a common practice everywhere, in Calhoun County? Did the judge know something about the Peters, Langston, Balducci, Judge DeLaughter situation in the Wilson case?

Does the out of court politics of law in Mississippi have a much deeper significance that anyone is willing to admit to?

Something is not quite right. And, it also seems of interest that Judge Lackey is being lauded for his efforts and that the Mississippi Bar association is giving him awards. Why is all this happening so fast?

Much more is to be unravelled.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Justice for American Judges and Lawyers Today

The other day, I listened to one of our Supreme Court justices, Anton Scalia, talk about a book --Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges -- he had written with another, a writer employed to write by one of the larger law book publishers, a "household name" in the legal profession. There was not much to listen too.

The judge was using the heights of his position to team up with a name one sees on significant publications of the law book publisher to tell lawyers how to make the lawyer's case to judges. And, to make your case, how to dress, how to write a brief, how to make oral argument, how to, how to, etc.

Lawyers with some spare change have many such books on their bookshelves (if they really have bookshelves outside of the bookshelves of their law firms). Such books not about the law, the history of law, the purposes of law, the major concerns of law over time. No, such books are books about how to "trick the law."

What I mean by "trick the law" is how to control the system of law and judges so that it works in one’s favor, so that it is possible for a lawyer to win. Tricking the law is about how a lawyer would go about getting his or her success in the law. Tricking the law books are all about how to conform so one can win – gain material success and favorable public opinion in the profession of the law.

Justice Scalia, a man lionized by many within and without the profession of the law, went on to say lawyers are merely "facilitators", that they do not contribute anything real or substantial to the process of life. They just help things along. I think I remember that as the essence of what the justice said, but I am also sure he would say I am simplifying it too much though.

I had never really thought about lawyers in this way before -- as facilitators. Or, if I had, I denied the truth of the characterization. The lawyer of my imagination has always been a person who, acting with courage and conviction and intelligence as best God gave it to him, would do more than just facilitate, he would lead and he would try to help the law evolve. I have naively assumed that a good lawyer would use his effort to help the filial sense of being evolve into finer thing.

I have had lofty thoughts about the law and lawyers and still do. But the justice’s remarks lead me to think I am out of step with the times.

Maybe a lawyer is just that, a facilitator. That a lawyer should be just that, and should aspire to be only that – a facilitator helping himself and his client trick the law for success and profit.

Does not seem much to aspire to.

Maybe we will be saved from this pecuniary view of the legal profession and the judiciary by a book, after the fashion of Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. A Babbitt book about a lawyer rather than a realtor (trademark).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Earwigging for Some but Not Others in Federal Courts?

In Richard Sobol’s book Bending the Law: The Story of the Dalkon Shield Bankruptcy , a rather momentous example of earwigging of a federal district court judge is described.

In the Preface to the book, Mr. Sobol describes how A. H. Robins Company, the manufacturer of the Dalkon Shield, sought to consolidate the Dalkon Shield Litigation in the federal court in Richmond, Virginia before District Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr., a local law school graduate of the University of Richmond, and an "enthusiastic booster of both the city and the university."

The efforts to consolidate had been opposed. Robins "finally achieved the consolidation of the Dalkon Shield litigation in Richmond before Judge Merhige by filing for bankruptcy." Mr. Sobol reported Judge Merhige "is a neighbor of E. Claiborne Robins, Sr., who is a celebrated figure in Richmond. Three weeks before the bankruptcy filing, Merhige met in his home with Robins, Sr., and E. Claiborne Robins, Jr., the president of A.H. Robins, to discuss the company’s plans with respect to bankruptcy."

The rest is history. The liabilities of the company and its officers, directors, attorneys and insurer were transferred "to a trust with limited funding, and to allow the Robin’s shareholders to be paid the value of the company in excess of the fund before it could be determined whether the individual entitlements of the women injured by the Dalkon Shield exceeded the amount of the fund, or indeed, the total value of the company."

Thus, it might be contended there there are differing standards regarding earwigging and its progeny from case to case in federal court.

One would have had a different view, maybe a more enlightened view, of the Scruggs sentencings had Judge Biggers made some mention of the A. H. Robins - Merhige earwigging. I wonder if he would have found a difference between it and the initial earwigging of Judge Lackey by Timothy Balducci to get the Jones case sent to arbitration?

Will Mississippi Change the Social Ethic of Its Legal Culture?

The leaders of the social ethic of the Mississippi legal culture are handing out accolades these days. For instance an award was given recently to the Circuit Court judge who became an agent of the federal government who entrapped people in a judicial bribe which he had proposed.

The United States District Court judge who handed down punishments -- prison and fines -- to the people who got caught in the sting is being congratulated for his hard bitten personality and the severity of the punishments given the limitations the judge was under due to plea bargains. He is also being congratulated for speaking for himself and not necessarily for the court.

So what do we have from all this? We have heroes and villains. The good guys are congratulated, bad guys are in jail. The good guys are really good, and the bad guys are really bad.

Case closed, the Social Ethic of the Legal Culture of Mississippi has been cleansed. Now everything can proceed as usual. I would not bet on this. Things are more complicated than they seem. What we have witnessed in the Scruggs Matter is only an emanation of a social ethic of the legal culture of Mississippi.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Scruggs Matter and the Oedipus Complex

The Scruggs Matter may provide food for understanding and speculation about the Oedipus Complex.

The Oedipus Complex has to do with the love - hate relationship of the child to the father or father figure. Freud, as I recall, speculated that the boy child wanted to replace the father in the affections of the mother. Maybe, but the Oedipus Complex in my mind has to do with relations of any person who seems to have an unusual affection for and veneration of persons in positions of power or who give the impression of power.

Of interest, of course, is the amount of respect almost awe some of the main players in the Scruggs Matter dialogue seem to have for "judges", lawyer fathers, and mentors. And, at the same time, seem to have, or at least show, great sentimental concern for animals in distress and fathers long gone. That is to say on the one hand some of the players can be downright mean and on the other downright nice to small critters in distress. I can understand the latter but do not understand how it can co-exist with the former. But then, in America one encounters this on a daily basis, especially in hunting country. (Reminds me of the young man I met while staying at the warden's house at the Minnesota Penitentiary (what a nice name for the place) in St. Cloud. He was in for "statutory rape" he said. On one of his arms he had a tattoo his buddies had done for him using a needle, thread and India ink. It said, "Mother.")

Maybe more on this topic and my approach to the Oedipus Complex at a later time. I will have to see if it captures my interest more than in a passing way. Right now thinking about it is better than listening to a book while I go about my business. What I seem to be seeing in the matter is enigmatic. It has been impressing me for the last four hours.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Judge Biggers: A View Up To the bench.

Judge Biggers does not seem to comport himself while acting from the bench with any sort of true detachment, objectivity, impartiality, understanding or compassion.

He seems to have taken the Scruggs matter personally. He seems intent on doing harm rather than doing justice.

Reading the transcript of the Dick Scruggs sentencing hearing one gets the impression Judge Biggers seems to think Scruggs offended him (and his friend Judge Lackey?) and for such offense of Judge Biggers he should be punished.

Federal judges should speak for the court, not themselves. Adherence to the fact that a federal judge is speaking for the court would have, should have, a moderating influence on the judge who happens to be on that particular bench at that particular time. More importantly the public impression and understanding of the court then is directed to the court itself, not some person who was fortunate enough to be appointed to the court by reason of the political process.

One senses there is a great deal more to the story of Dick Scruggs and the trouble he finds himself in. It looks as though the trouble and concern for the system of justice may extend deeper into the judiciary and legal system in Mississippi and indeed America.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why not tell the whole story?

It is interesting and perhaps telling that the bribe was proposed by a Mississippi judge. A judge who was earwigged by a close friend. A judge who then took his friend into his confidence and then, when the friend was hitting rock bottom financially and emotionally, proposed that his friend pay him a bribe - $40,000. Obliging, the friend, and then caught accepting the judge's proposed bribe of himself, proceeded to entrap his friends into the bribe in order to lighten the load he and his mentor judge had put on his life. There is much more to this sad tale than the shortcomings of Richard Scruggs, Sidney Backstrom and Zachary Scruggs.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Sentencing

Richard Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom were sentenced last week.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Souls of People.

Dickie Scruggs, his son and law partner are to be sentenced on July 2, 2008. Some Internet commenter's take pleasure in this, in the fall of a man. In their pleasure there is obvious animosity toward the man and satisfaction in his fall. Seems such expressions tell more about the critics than it does about Mr. Scruggs. The interest is prurient. It is like the interest some people express toward political figures. It is truly irrelevant in the wider scheme of things. If they can get others to share in the criticism of the people who are the objects of their criticisms they are able to themselves from their own capabilities. That is to say, the connection between their instincts and the object, and the approval of others in the connection, gives them an inner sense that they are not as deficient as they think they are in their own souls. The end result? -- their narcissitic satisfaction, sinister as it is, pleasure.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Robert Coughlin: Where's the Commentary?

Robert Coughlin has pled guilty. Justice Department, friend of Jack Abramoff. Involved in keeping the Abramoff prosecution in some check. Involved with Paul Minor prosecution. Where is the commentary?

Corruption Everywhere

In a recent interview published in the Jackson Free Press, Bill Minor, the father of Paul Minor said this:

It is clear from recent events that the U.S. Department of Justice was
corrupt. Just yesterday, the former deputy director of the Public Integrity
Section of the Department of Justice, Robert Coughlin who prosecuted Paul, was
accused of taking bribes to go easy on an investigation of the notorious Jack
Abramoff, the prominent Republican lobbyist who is now in jail for paying off
several members of the US Congress.

Yesterday, Mr. Coughlin, pleaded guilty. See this story Guilty Plea in Abramoff-Linked Case
Former Justice Department Official Admits Conflict of Interest in Lobbyist Case
. For some reason I think the quick plea to "conflict of interest" probably will hide a whole host of wrongdoing. Wrongdoing reaching well into Mississippi and elsewhere. Let's see, what were the law firms Jack Abramoff was associated with. And, let us see, how did Abramoff move money -- through the accounts of what firm(s)?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monsters and Motivations: The Saga Begins to Unfold in Greater Depth

Some of Judge Henry Lackey's testimony or abridgements or paraphrases of the testimony can be found at Folo (I did not know the kind of monster we were dealing with . . .). Here is an interesting chunk. Cal Mayo is doing the questioning (but not very well it should be added, but maybe not all the questions and answers were reported), he is the attorney for Dick Scruggs.
Q: In May, Balducci had made no quid pro quo?

[A.] He was lying to me and I was lying to him, was what was happening.

[Q.] Did you have any discussions about recusal with FBI or US Attorneys office about your recusal before you did it?

[A.] Sent letter recusing myself, my decision. Did not feel I was getting anywhere, was frustrated with the situation. I reported it to the FBI agent.

[A.] After talking to the FBI agent and after realizing what a monster we were dealing with and the lives he had probably destroyed and the young lawyers and their families he had destroyed, I got back in it.

[A.] The monster was Dickie Scruggs.

Q. Who told you he had destroyed those lives.

A. I did not realize what a monster we were dealing with fully until now. I realize what he has done to destroy our profession, more than anything in my lifetime. Tim Balducci had told me Scruggs knew.

A. Did not discuss the lives Scruggs had destroyed at that time.

It seems clear Judge Lackey had an agenda of his own in this matter. That it was an agenda which preceded his contact with the US Attorney. Before he went to the "FBI agent" (did that come after he had talked with the US Attorney?) he said, "[d]id not feel I was getting anywhere, was frustrated with the situation."
What was the situation? It was, Lackey said, in "May, Balducci had made no quid pro quo?“He was lying to me and I was lying to him, was what was happening.” That is, Lackey had formed and intent to get something out of Balducci which would give him some power over Balducci. But it was not forth-coming, he was frustrated.

Lackey seems to have had the opinion that Dick Scruggs was a "monster" and had "destroyed lives" and "destroyed" "young lawyers and their families." He was going after him, Dick Scruggs, and he was going to use his friend Balducci to get to him. To get to the monster who had destroyed lives and destroyed young lawyers and their families.

Lackey had an agenda, a purpose, in this. Balducci's contact with him in March gave him a pretext to pursue that purpose and a pretext to destroy his friend Balducci in the process (war is justified by the presumption that the object of war is evil). One cannot be sure from what one knows of the Lackey testimony but it would seem there is more than a hint of the Judge's relish in going after Dick Scruggs -- the words, monster, destroy lives, destroy young lawyers and their families indicate more than objective interest.

"So what," you might say.

Let me explain myself. That Lackey may have had a personal agenda in this, a mission of his own, is certainly of interest regarding the entrapment issue, which as you know is of importance to me. But more interesting and in line with what I said in my last post, Lackey's motivations seem to make for a more interesting story, seem to express more depth about the "set piece" of the Scruggs Matter. There is greater depth to the history.

Just as Dick Scruggs creatively with friends and compatriots pursued the asbestos cases (I had an early part in the defense of some of the non-Scruggs, non-Motley, asbestos cases in Eastern Washington but got out of them and handed them off to one of my partners), just as Dick Scruggs with Attorney General Moore and various attorneys general (AG Christine Gregoire of Washington was one of the major players) pursued big tobacco, just has Dick Scruggs "got his rocks off," pursued his career, pursued success, pursued his desire to advance himself, pursued justice, so Judge Lackey creatively sought an object which would benefit him, satisfy his urging: to wit, the destruction of Dick Scruggs.

I think Lackey saw the destruction of Dick Scruggs as a worthy goal and one which would advance his reputation. Each of Scruggs and Lackey took their energies, their libido, their creativity and pursued objects the control or conquest of which would have payoff or gain to them.

And, just as Dick Scruggs seemed to push to the outside of the envelop doing things others more ethical would not have done, Judge Lackey has seemed to push the outside of the envelop to gain his objective, that is the cajoling of his emotionally manic and morally weak friend, Tim Balducci, into a crime of bribery proposed by the Judge himself which would very rapidly trap Dick Scruggs and bring his downfall.

In the lives of these two players, Dick Scruggs and Henry Lackey, there is much interesting material as to motivation and instinct. This makes the story of the Scruggs Matter much more interesting and indeed, much more instructive to those who might be interested in more than the usual comic book theme of war between good guys and bad guys. The matter is not that simple, nor that inconsequential.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Real Story About the Scruggs Matter

The real story about the Scruggs Matter is hidden from us. We can only speculate. We can, however, keep our speculation in check if we understand history and a bit of human nature.

What the heck am I talking about? The history of what I might refer to or think of as a "set piece of human events" (e.g. the Scruggs Matter) is the history of causes of the actions and causes of reactions. The causes of the actions and reactions have a source in human nature, in the particular the human beings playing out their parts in piece of history -- people who are playing out the events of the "set piece." These are the people who have some sort of part to play of the events which unfold.

The set piece is a sort of representation of the wills of the participants and a representation of will in itself -- it is as if there is some sort of flowering of actions and reactions and more actions and reactions until what is in the making is made and then comes to a rest, at least for the time being.

The part which is hidden from us are the particular "causes" of the actions and reactions. These causes are to be found in human nature. But, the human nature we must speak of is that of the particular human nature of each of the participants, known and unknown, in the course of the actions and reactions. And, it is the will of human nature in and of itself.

Whatever we do about and within this set piece and that which we observe is, in truth speculation, about human nature and the particular human natures of the participants.

We will never know the real truth, the full and real truth of the Scruggs Matter.

One thing for sure, as far as I am concerned is that the matter is far more interesting than it appears. Another thing for sure, the characters in the drama are not as guilty nor as innocent as those of us who comment upon the matter would supposedly cause us to believe.

The Scruggs Matter is life in the raw. It is also life which has a certain beauty to it when one relieves himself from the absurd notion he or she can pass judgment on any person in the play.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Manners and Morals of Gulf Coast Lawyers and Judges

The recent events in Jones v. Scruggs (Katrina Group remainder) are most interesting. Judicial actions have taken place in Jones and other civil cases in the area involving Dick Scruggs which foretell or should foretell all sorts of interesting developments. I sure hope someone with a clever mind and a mind for digging beneath the pleasant surface of things is working on the matter -- with the intent of writing a true history of it or at least using it and speculations about it as the backdrop of a bit of fiction.

One observation -- the entire house of cards (the Katrina / State Farm litigation and the professional success of Dick Scruggs) is falling or has fallen as a result of the bribery entrapment of Dick Scruggs by Judge Henry Lackey, a Mississippi Circuit Court judge. That is to say, the main character in the story will be Judge Lackey.

Judge Lackey seems to be the local hero of the moment. He's riding real high right now and he knows it. His self-satisfaction was well apparent in his testimony the other day in the Jones case before Mississippi Circuit Judge Coleman.

I speculate there is a lot more to the story of Judge Lackey -- a whole lot more. I doubt he was the innocent he says he was in the bribery entrapment. He "professes too much." And much of what he says is simply unbelievable (to a person who has spent the last 38 years in the legal profession many of those years being years trying cases to judges (not to juries)).

The judge would like us to believe he was deeply troubled by his meeting with Tim Balducci in March, 2007. What he would have us believe does not ring true. I wonder whether he jumped on the opportunity presented by the stupidities and emotional weaknesses of his friend to pursue an agenda of his own, as some sort of crime fighter to bring down "the monster." He says he did not realize that Dick Scruggs was a monster until after he got involved. In his testimony the other day he threw that into the mix after catching himself saying he suspected Dick Scruggs was a monster he wanted to get at the time of his first meeting or shortly thereafter, before he went to the US Attorney.

I wonder did he become the agent for the government in the entrapment because the government wanted him to become the agent or did he become a government agent because he wanted to be a government agent for purposes of his own. And, if so, were those purposes really his purposes or was he pursuing the purposes of others, of a group, of some sort of gestalt which had become ascendant in a certain aspect of the legal/judicial community? Judges do not act on their own, they are consummate conformists. What wants to imagine as leadership is most often judicial expression of conformity.

There are a good number of people in Mississippi who would like to believe Judge Lackey is a great guy, a great leader. They, and the judge profess too much. I am suspicious. I wonder whether I am the only one.

Back to what I hope -- that someone with time on his or her hands and some investigatory and writing skills will tell the truth about the situation and will flesh out these strange and unusual characters who have popped up and who are popping up as the days progress in this bit of history of the manners and morals of the Gulf Coast legal/judicial system.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Trial. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless
characters of judges, advocates and jurors.

Ambrose Bierce

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Public Opinion vs. The Truth About the Scruggs Matter

Columnist Carl Horowitz published an opinion piece on March 29, entitled "Dickie Scruggs: A Legal Career Up In Smoke." I found it on Townhall.com, a website of so-called "Conservative" columnists and others.

Referring to the Jones v. Scruggs case Mr. Horowitz says this:

Dickie Scruggs wasn't about to yield. In March 2007 he and four persons -- all future defendants -- paid Judge Henry Lackey a visit to make him an offer:
Rule in our favor and we'll make you richer. Lackey, not wanting to bring legal
troubles upon himself, quickly reported the incident to the FBI. That in turn
led to an undercover sting operation. Timothy Balducci, a New Albany, Miss. lawyer, along with former Mississippi State Auditor Steven Patterson, decided to cop a plea and work with the feds. During September 27-November 1, 2007, Balducci made three cash payments to Judge Lackey totaling $50,000. "We paid for this ruling; let's be sure it says what we want it to say," Balducci told Zach Scruggs and Sid Backstrom.
This looks a bit like the story, but it is not. Much of it is untrue. It is libelous. Libelous but none one of the "four persons" would make any headway bringing suit. See New York Times v. Sullivan.

So the story of Scruggs Matter twisted as Carl Horowitz has twisted it will be the Public Opinion about the Scruggs Matter and the character of Dick Scruggs, Sidney Backstrom and Zach Scruggs.

The Real Truth about the Scruggs Matter and these individuals will be lost to history.

Out of respect for the truth, let us look at the statement, parse it, and see how the truth has been sullied.

Horowitz starts out saying Scruggs was not "about to yield" in the Jones v. Scruggs case.

"Yield" to what? There was (and is) a difference of opinion as to the relationship between the plainfiffs and defendants in Jones. Yield to what, the plaintiffs' claims? Yield to the pressue of the case, one which had been sealed at the ex parte request of the attorney for the Jones plaintiff to the judge assigned to the case, Judge Henry Lackey?

Mr. Horowitz goes on:

In March 2007 he and four persons -- all future defendants -- paid Judge Henry Lackey a visit to make him an offer: Rule in our favor and we'll make you richer.
Tim Balducci was a longtime friend of Judge Henry Lackey. He met with Judge Lackey to "earwig" him about the Jones Case. Lackey had already earwigged with Grady
Tollison, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case and consented to sign and did sign an order sealing the file in the case. Defendants were not made aware of the "motion" to seal the file. Nor were they made aware that Tollison had earwigged Judge Lackey.

Tim Balducci was the only person to meet with his friend Judge Lackey. Dick Scruggs and "four persons" did not "pay" a visit to Judge Lackey. (Interesting but not so clever use of the verb "paid" by Mr. Horowitz.)

Balducci did not ask Lackey to rule in favor of defendants in the case. The case could only go to arbitration. That was the agreement between the parties. Balducci did not seek a favorable ruling in the case, he only pointed out the fact of the case, that it should be in a different forum, the forum of an arbitration.

Horowitz says: "Lackey, not wanting to bring legal troubles upon himself, quickly reported the incident to the FBI. That in turn led to an undercover sting operation."

Nothing happened. Two weeks later, Lackey decided to go to the United States Attorney. He did not act "quickly" that is for certain.

This move by Judge Lackey is interesting. Why did he wait? Did he think he was being watched? Seems there something in a newspaper article in which it was said that Lackey may have been afraid he might be "investigated."

Lackey was then and still is a member of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance. He has ruled against judges who have had ex parte contact. Yet he had an ex parte contact with the attorney for the plaintiff in the Jones Case. Seems there is ex parte contact and then there is some other wrongful ex parte contact. What Balducci did in talking to Lackey, his long time friend and mentor was to have contact which was not thought to be wrongful. It was just Mississippi Earwigging.

One also must wonder whether the United States Government, the Office of the United States Attorney, was known by Lackey to be investigating persons in Mississippi which may have been targeted for possible prosecution if possible for such wrongdoing as "honest services" wire fraud.

Judge Lackey may have been a key in the "if possible prosecution" desires of the federal government, the US Attorney's Office.

In April 2007 Lackey, as a judge, agreed to become a "government agent." He agreed engage in conduct which would trap Balducci in an act of wrongdoing which would put him in jail.

But he wanted more and the record clearly shows this, he wanted to use his friend Balducci to bring down Dick Scruggs . He agreed to be a government agent to engage in an act of treachery to destroy his friend and his friend's friend.

Horowitz goes on to say:
Timothy Balducci, a New Albany, Miss. lawyer, along with former Mississippi State Auditor Steven Patterson, decided to cop a plea and work with the feds. During September 27- November 1, 2007, Balducci made three cash payments to Judge Lackey totaling $50,000. "We paid for this ruling; let's be sure it says what we want
it to say," Balducci told Zach Scruggs and Sid Backstrom.
Judge Lackey, now government agent and wearing a wire and having his phones wired, was having no success in his newly discovered role as federal government crime fighter. Nothing was forthcoming from Balducci which he might use to succeed in getting Scruggs under some federal government prosecution.

Things changed in August. Lackey became aware that his friend Balducci was in trouble, real trouble and was looking for some success.

Balducci had embarked on the formation of a new law firm. It was with Steve Patterson. Patterson was not a lawyer. They had offices in Mississippi and Washington, D.C. They had already enlisted a former United States Magistrate and a Mississippi circuit judge to appear on the their letterhead. There were others. But the firm was broke. In addition, members of the Mississippi legal fraternity were moving in on the question of whether the Balducci Patterson firm was not a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct because Patterson was not a lawyer.
Balducci put a good front but he was clearly in trouble, maybe even having a nervous breakdown. He was acting as if he had become manic.

Lackey certainly must have sensed this. It was then that he told his friend Balducci that he, Lackey, was in trouble and needed money. Lackey offered to help Balducci if Balducci would help him. Lackey said he needed $40,000. Lackey said he needed it from Scruggs. He said he would order the Jones Case to arbitration.

Lackey had a wire on his body when he talked with Balducci about his desire for money and Balducci's acquiescence. Balducci was caught. He was in deep trouble. He began to talk to the United States Government, the people who were working with Judge Lackey.

Facing many years in prison, he agreed to become a government agent to extend the Lackey "bribe" to Dick Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom and Zach Scruggs, Dick Scruggs 33 year old son.

He succeeded, and with Defendants Sruggs and Backstrom on tape showing various levels of participation or knowledge about what Balducci was supposedly working out with Judge Lackey (the "bribe" was not a bribe at all at this time because Judge Lackey was not really offerng a bribe), the government secured indictments from the grand jury against Dick Scruggs, Sidney Backstrom, Zach Scruggs, Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson.

(It is interesting to note that the grand jury was sitting and supposedly ready to consider such information about Scruggs and others.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Treachery: A Poignant Truth of the Scruggs Matter?

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of the Scruggs Matter is the treachery of Judge Henry Lackey.

It may well be to some that the end justifies the means but the truth is Judge Lackey deceived his friend Tim Balducci and brought him down, bringing him to utter ruin as a lawyer. As if this was not enough, he forced his friend into a position where he then had to act to betray his friend, Dick Scruggs, Sidney Backstrom and Zach Scruggs.

These treacheries are not spoken of in the current discussion of the Scruggs Matter.

Perhaps it is because we are so full of hatred and ill-feeling and so many are irrationally delighting in the destruction of "wrongdoers" we do not recognize a telling and terribly distressful truth about what has happened. Judge Lackey and the United States Attorney in the Northern District of Mississippi are not heroes in this matter. They have acted with treachery. This conduct is permitted by our laws. But, I wonder is it permitted by higher laws?

I think not. The end does not justify the means. Not only was the entrapment in this case by Judge Lackey wrongful and a true a good defense for each of the Srcuggs Defendants, the entrapment was wrong as a matter of basic morality between human beings.

All of the wrong by the Scruggs defendants is not as wrong as the conduct of Judge Lackey in using his friend's trust to bring him to ruin and in forcing his friend to bring his friends to ruin.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Truth: The first casualty of war.

"In war, truth is the first casualty." Aeschylus (525 BC - 456 BC).

An essential "truth" of the Scruggs Matter has to do with whether Mississippi Circuit Judge Henry Lackey's sought after payment from Tim Balducci was "a business transaction or series of transactions of both Layfayette County [Mississippi] and the Administrative Office of the Courts [of Mississippi]." See, e.g. Court Transcript of Court's Acceptance of Sidney Backstrom Plea.

This condition was a requirement of the crime. The crime was bribery or conspiracy to bribe a state judge. It was a federal crime. The federal government could not impose the crime unless there was a nexus of federal funds going to the state agencies supposedly involved in the crime. Without the nexus, the federal government would have no constitutional basis for jurisdiction to impose its laws.

Thus, it had to be established that there was federal money going to the local government, an agency of the state, in this case Lafayette County and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

To round out the jurisdiction requirement it also had to be shown that an agent of these entities had engaged in a transaction or transactions for them which was a violation of the law, bribery.

So here is where truth becomes a casualty.

Judge Lackey sought to be paid a bribe. He initiated the bribe. Tim Balducci did not seek to bribe Judge Lackey. Judge Lackey was able to get Timothy Balducci to go along with the payment of money the Judge sought.

Was the transaction a county or court transaction? The transaction could not have been with the county or the court.

1. Judge Lackey was the one who sought the payment of money from Balducci.

2. The money sought was not going to the county or the court.

3. Judge Lackey did not have authority under law to seek the money. A bribe was outside the scope of his employment. It was in violation of his duties as judge. It was in violation of his duties as lawyer. It was in violation of his authority under the constitution of the state of Mississippi.

There is no basis for saying that Judge Lackey's actions, the payment of money to him, involved "a business transaction or series of transactions of both [or either] Layfayette County and [or] the Administrative Office of the Courts."

Saying they were is a pure fiction, a fiction necessary to make the case against Dick Scruggs, Sidney Backstrom and Zach Scruggs -- a fiction necessary for the government to win the war.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Climate of Opinion of Blogs and Comments

There seems to be a climate of opinion which animates the comments one reads made in response to a statement of fact or opinion in this or that blog regarding the Scruggs Matter. The climate includes a whole lot of animus toward Dick Scruggs and Zach Scruggs. Not much is said about Sidney Backstrom. Tim Balducci is mentioned from time to time but he seems a bit off the general object of attention, at least for the time-being. The climate of opinion about the Scruggs is decidedly negative and mean-spirited.

It includes an obvious glee in their fall and much enthusiastic speculation as to what is to befall Dick Scruggs or Zach Scruggs in the future when it is time for them to pay, at the time of sentencing. There is much optimistic speculation of further trouble for Dick Scruggs.

The climate of opinion has another interesting aspect. The people who comment seem part of a community of like-minded people. Like-minded in animosity toward Dick Scruggs.

Also, the commenters make it a point to share the view of the author of the piece the commenters comment about. There is a sort of hero worship of the author. It is as if the commenter must tell how much he likes what David, Peter, Lotus, or other person, a newspaper reporter, is saying and how well he or she thinks of the person -- the one who brings the tidbit which satiates the emotions of the worshipper.

In one his journal entries Leo Tolstoy said this:
To love means to desire that which the beloved object desires. The objects of love desire opposing things, and therefore, we can only love that which desires one and the same thing. But that which desires one and the same thing is God.
December, 1895, Wikisource.

There is a love of sorts among the author and the commenters, a connection. A kindred spirit. The climate of opinion is an expression of the love of that connection. There is a solidarity. In this solidarity there is a sense the commenters have found their god. That is to say, one can feel right, strong, as having place, because there are others who share in certain objects of desire. In this case the desires are of mean-spiritedness toward Dick Scruggs and pleasure in his downfall.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Imagination: Pascal's Pensees 82

Pascal says this about imagination and truth:

82 Imagination. —It is that deceitful part in man, that mistress of error and falsity, the more deceptive that she is not always so; for she would be an infallible rule of truth, if she were an infallible rule of falsehood. But being most generally false, she gives no sign of her nature, impressing the same character on the true and the false.

I do not speak of fools, I speak of the wisest men; and it is among them that the imagination has the great gift of persuasion. Reason protests in vain; it cannot set a true value on things.

This arrogant power, the enemy of reason, who likes to rule and dominate it, has established in man a second nature to show how all-powerful she is. She makes men happy and sad, healthy and sick, rich and poor; she compels reason to believe, doubt, and deny; she blunts the senses, or quickens them; she has her fools and sages; and nothing vexes us more than to see that she fills her devotees with a satisfaction far more full and entire than does reason. Those who have a lively imagination are a great deal more pleased with themselves than the wise can reasonably be. They look down upon men with haughtiness; they argue with boldness and confidence, others with fear and diffidence; and this gaiety of countenance often gives them the advantage in the opinion of the hearers, such favour have the imaginary wise in the eyes of judges of like nature. Imagination cannot make fools wise; but she can make them happy, to the envy of reason which can only make its friends miserable; the one covers them with glory, the other with shame.

What but this faculty of imagination dispenses reputation, awards respect and veneration to persons, works, laws, and the great? How insufficient are all the riches of the earth without her consent!

Would you not say that this magistrate, whose venerable age commands the respect of a whole people, is governed by pure and lofty reason, and that he judges causes according to their true nature without considering those mere trifles which only affect the imagination of the weak? See him go to sermon, full of devout zeal, strengthening his reason with the ardour of his love. He is ready to listen with exemplary respect. Let the preacher appear, and let nature have given him a hoarse voice or a comical cast of countenance, or let his barber have given him a bad shave, or let by chance his dress be more dirtied than usual, then however great the truths he announces. I wager our senator loses his gravity.

If the greatest philosopher in the world find himself upon a plank wider than actually necessary, but hanging over a precipice, his imagination will prevail, though his reason convince him of his safety. Many cannot bear the thought without a cold sweat. I will not state all its effects.

See Pascal's Pensees at wikisource.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Way It Is

On NPR this morning I heard a fluff piece at the end of thank you to Bill and Melinda Gates for their support of something or other. The piece went something like the Gates' support each person's rught to advance himself.

How nice I thought. How darn right nice. But then I remembered. Bill Gates has done just about everything he could to capture market share of an operating system, an office suite, an internet front end, email client and so on. He has driven hundreds of companies out of the market with his success. It has been claimed over and over he has not violated anti-trust laws and copyrights and so on.

Each person has a right to advance himself but watch there are some of us who want more, want what you want, want as much as we can get. We are the juggernaut of competition. We will eat you up.

So what does one make of this? As a culture, we have high tolerance, even reverence for the guy who can give away lots of money even if it was rather ruthlessly accumulated.

We like such people so much we will even build football stadia at public expense for their privately owned professional football teams. Brower v. State, 137 Wn.2d 44 (1998).

Seems us baboozie would sell our souls for a pit of spectacle, power and rich guy worship.

Friday, March 21, 2008

An Analogy

An analogy for those who disagree with my statement of personal opinion:Every now and then I make a mistake while driving which upsets another driver and justifiably so. I usually realize my mistake and apologize for it, one way or another, by a signal of some kind to the driver I have wronged. Most wronged drivers will acknowledge both my wrongdoing and my apology. A small few will simply drive by and raise their fist and shake it or their hand with the middle finger prominently displayed. I think that small few wears real heavy on the spirit of community.

Judge Biggers

Today Judge Biggers received a guilty plea from Zach Scruggs for "misprision of a felony."

After a statement by Mr. Scruggs in which he apologized and expressed his genuine remorse, Judge Biggers replied:
The legal profession you say you love so much, you will not be a part of for
the rest of your life.

This statement was, simply put, unnecessary and mean-spirited.

Mississippi Floods and the Ogallala Aquifer

The Mississippi Drainage Basin is full of water, so full it is at flood stage in hundreds of square miles of area. The floods will cause much damage. Perhaps use can be made of these waters and perhaps some of the flood surge could be abated if --

If there was an extensive system of large pumps and large pipe systems for the time being within westward directed railroad right-of-ways to move vast quantities of flood waters to the west. Where in the west? To the thousands of wells which been drilled into the Ogallala Aquifer.

One of the major problems of the plains states is the need to recharge the Ogallala Aquifer. This would recharge the aquifer, take some of the flood surge burden off the Mississippi System, and make water available for continued circle farming and urban areas in the High Plains.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Flood Warnings

There are flood warnings for the entire length of the Mississippi River making up the western boundary of Mississippi. National Weather Service.

What does this have to do with the Scruggs Matter. I am not sure, but I think the flooding in Mississippi, and the hurricanes, have something to do with making the character of the people.

Speaking of floods in Mississippi read or listen to Rising Tide by John M Barry (1997). This is a story about the Mississippi Flood of 1927. You become transfixed by the magnitude of the trouble the Mississipians, mostly black, had to put up with by the rising waters and the hard life on the levee along the river near Greenville. Most interesting is that although the whites were allowed to leave the area, most of the black people were not. they were not allowed on the evacuation boats. Thuss they were forced to remain on the levees, they had nowhere to go, and to eat, to be given food which was not available on the levees, they had to work. They were again held and treated as slaves.

The True Believers

Over the past three months I have been reading the main blogs which address the Scruggs Matter. Every one of the them is against Dick Scruggs, Zach Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom. Also, those who comment at these blogs predominently share in the theme of the blog.

One would have thought there would be more balance and would have thought more balance in the comments generated by the entries in the blogs.

Every now and then a comment will be entered which is balanced or is clearly "on the side of the defendants." Such a comment will be rejected at one of the main blogs. On another, such a comment may generate further comment and that is good. Folo, though pretty one-sided, allows for such comments. The commentator has to have a thick skin though from time to time because true-believer Scruggs detractors will add their comments in opposition. Sometimes the counter - comments can get a bit dicey.

There is some human nature at work here. I think our aggression instinct comes into play in such matters. I also think our desire to be a part of a group enhances these instincts of aggression. See, Gustav le Bon, The Crowd (1895); See also, S. Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1821).

So what have we? Yet another example of the "True Beiever" phenomenon. See Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951) ; Wikipedia, The True Believer; see also, S. Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (1930).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"I require mercy not sacrifice"

The power of government in the Scruggs Litigation is now left with one target, one alleged wrongdoer, Zach Scruggs. He is the youngest, least experienced, least responsible for anything in this trouble. He is a person who, at his age, was still in the thrall of older people. The forces of government are now going to be used to "bring this young man to justice." These forces are being used to destroy him. To sacrifice him.

The government has gotten this young man in its sights by reason of a highly objectionable entrapment, an entrapment wherein a sitting judge used his long time friend, who betrayed his long time friend, to bring his friend into a bribe and to use his friend to bring others into that bribe. The judge's target was Dick Scruggs. The last object of destruction of this outrageous abuse of government power is Zach Scruggs. The others have all been gotten.

The power of government now unleashed on Zach Scruggs is completely out of proportion to the situation.

What comes to mind, what government over-reaction might come into consciousness? In recent memory -- Ruby Ridge and Waco. These examples may seem severe but I am not so sure. The power of government can bring great destruction, destruction which is not justified by the so-called wrong sought to be corrected or punished.

Government seeks to make a sacrifice of Zach Scruggs to its supposed majesty of the law.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Let's Hope the Case is On

Let us hope the Scruggs Case is still on with Zach Scruggs taking the lead. It is apparent Dick Scruggs had to plead as he did in order to give his son, Zach, a chance at proving his innocence. Zach Scruggs did not stand a chance with his case being combined with that of Dick Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom. One can hardly fail to see the due process problem here. Judge Bigger's denial of the motion to sever was way over the top.

I also hope the issue of "entrapment as a matter of law" will come up and that it will be used to vindicate Zach Scruggs. Again, we cannot have respect for the judicial system if state judges become agents of the Federal Government. Especially if the judge cum government agent pursued his mark when the mark did not pursue the judge and when the judge cum government agent was the actual person who proposed the bribe.

Wikiscruggs Is Now a Public Wiki

Wikiscruggs is now a public wiki. I have created another wiki which is limited. To get to the public wiki to read or participate go to http://www.wikiscruggs.com/. The limited wiki can be found at www.wikiscruggs.com/wiki.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dick Scruggs, A Man of Character

The evidence in this case shows us that Dick Scruggs is a man of character. He got caught up in some wrongdoing and he is going to take a good bit of punishment for it. But I think we will see there is real character to the man.

I have known some people who have gotten themselves in a good deal of trouble but they have still shown character in the face of their own human failings. The one who comes first to mind is my law school classmate and long ago friend Egil "Bud" Krogh. Another is a man I only knew of as interested Seattle lawyer watching the life unfold of another Seattle lawyer, John Erhichman.

(And, it should also be said even though President Richard M. Nixon did wrong, I still hold that he was and will be understood to be a man of character too. I simply cannot share in the desires of many to pass judgment. There was much good in the man.)

This step in the life of Dick Scruggs will most surely be something from which he will derive great existential benefit. I also think he will share it with us and we will all benefit.

I seem to recall this "Judge ye not, lest ye be judged." That is a good proverb to keep in mind.

As time moves on I will say more about the character of Dick Scruggs as I think more about it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Earwigging is Lobbying (And Judicial Corruption)

It seems clear the judicial culture in Mississippi commonly accepted the cultural phenomenon of earwigging. To earwig a judge means to talk privately with a judge about common things between the judge and the talker, to influence, to get a judge to go the way of the earwigger.

Earwigging is lobbying. It is similar to the efforts a lobbyist makes to sway legislator to the lobbyist's point of view. It is private and it is personal. More often than not it does not involve bribery. And, of course it does not have to involve bribery.

A few days ago, a New York lawyer, David Boies, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reporters said this:
I tried some cases before Mississippi state court judges who were just great,and I also tried cases in front of Mississippi judges who were just terrible. There is undoubtedly some real corruption – where a judge does something for money or favors. But I think that is a very small problem in Mississippi, and a tiny problem in most places. The bigger problem is where judges do things because they know the people, because they like the people, because they’re comfortable with the people. That’s a much more difficult thing to get your arms around, partly because its human nature. And the problem’s not unique to Mississippi. [Emphasis added.]

To earwig means, in its essence, to play on the human frailty of liking people whom we think are our friends, people we feel comfortable with, our hunting buddies, our golf buddies, our lawyer group buddies, the "brothers" in those "fraternities" of which we like to think we are a part.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Judicial Corruption in Mississippi?

When you think about it, it is hard to believe a lawyer with the savy of Dick Scruggs would have believed earwigging in Mississippi was "that wrong", that uncommon, or that a sitting state judge and the federal government would use the practice to lead a broken down, out of control lawyer, Tim Balducci, into a bribery sting.

It must have been common knowledge to the lawyers involved, as well as the judge, that earwigging was a common practice. And, that even though a violation of court rule and Rules of Professional Conduct, it was commonly engaged in. Witness Judge Lackey's agreement to enter an order ex parte on behalf of the attorney for the plaintiffs in the Jones Case to seal the file leaving it to be opened at the behest of the attorney who sought the sealing order.

Thus, I think the federal focus now must be to expand the the corruption investigation into the real problem in Mississippi -- corrupt judges and a climate of pervasive political use of the judicial system.

Suffice it to say, I doubt Dick Scruggs would be in the life changing position he is in today were it not for deep problems of judicial corruption in Mississippi.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Is it over?

In a way, the story of the Scruggs Litigation is just beginning.

What might we see unfold if we watch closely? The care of a man for his son and his law partner, the stupidity of Tim Balducci, the arrogance of Joey Langston, the hunger of a Circuit Court Judge to bring his friend to ruin for a bit of fame, the violation of a judge's duties to the bar association, the judiciary, the people of Mississippi, proscutors with vanity license plates advertising their love for a highly dubious Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), and the list goes on and on.

One might conclude there is sin almost everywhere in this case -- lawyers, judges, politicians, law firm employees, insurance companies, tobacco companies, state attorneys general, lawyers and law firms who graze the landscape for poor souls who suffer at the hands and minds of "large" combines and small combines intent on making a buck no matter what the costs to the consumer and the enviroment (but no one really cares about the small combines (no assets and no glory -- read money)).

One would be hard pressed to find anything decent or uplifting in any of this. And, no one seems have enough personal integrity to step back a bit and, well, to bear witness to one's own complicity in the whole business. Yes, I mean complicity.

For now, all of us are home free. Dick Scruggs and Sid Backstrom are going to jail. Hopefully, people will be decent enough to give Zach Scruggs a pass. What one sees here, maybe, is the love of father and of a friend. Quite humbling I would say. Quite commendable.

All of this is very sad. A lot of it is very wrong.

But, what is really wrong, and very sad, is this: The system of law and justice in America has become corrupt. In its very essence, judges, prosecutors and private lawyers are really politicians -- people, who at bottom, exercise power. One gets the impression that law and the rule of law, and the judicial system is more a playground for those who love power than it is a place where the history of the human knowledge of right and wrong is written. Where the litigants and the judges are actually seeking to do real right by their fellows.

Those who use the judicial system as a playground of power are all right with this. They do not know any different. They have not had anyone tell them the human mind and spirit are capable of something which is much better. And, they are too proud, pugnacious and greedy for money and approval to care.

As one gets older, gets very close to end of his life, one sees the truth of the phrase "power corrupts."

Of the many roles played in this tale which may be the most sad from a standpoint of simple humanity -- man to man -- is the part played by Judge Lackey.

I will hold off from saying more -- I think more is to come about Ed Peters, Judge Bobby DeLaughter, Joey Langston and Judge Lackey, the state judge who became a government agent for purposes of putting the sting on Dick Scruggs.

For me, this episode in the history of America leads me to think this: Not one of the players in this sad drama could have read the authors and the books which have told us about ourselves -- Theodore Dreiser (An American Tradgedy), Sinclair Lewis (Babbit), Frank Norris (McTeague), F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) or the New Testament.

The winners and the losers? I wonder. Is there really any difference? Is it possible this whole situation may have a simple and common basis in the desire of people to engage in war and the notion that material things are the primary measure of all things. (Or, maybe, unknowingly fulfill their own versions of the oedipus complex -- but I will save that line of thought for another time.)

Who really knows? I suspect there is something much deeper and simpler playing itself out in the whole Scruggs Litigation Matter. Who really knows? Someone will come closer to understanding and knowing what has really happened as time passes. Maybe.

But, the entire situation may never be known or understood. Like so much we think we know, the real facts, the real attachments of human emotion and motivation, the real truth will be lost to history.

Maybe in waiting we will finally come to know. But, I must say, I doubt it. I doubt it because we go into death and into history seeing the world, always, in the way that suits us best. We live out our lives in our daydreams, diversions. Pascal was right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eliot Spitzer, Helicopter Skiing, Long Haul Trucking

In an earlier post I fantasized Eliot Spitzer may have been set up. Oops. $80,000 is a lot to pay for the pleasures of the flesh. Even for the flesh of one as comely as "she who serviced #9."

Such an amount (investment in destruction) leads me to the (humble conclusion) big people with evil in their hearts and access to highly tasteful young women had nothing to do with Mr. Spitzer's trouble.

Well, we are all sinners. And, well, if we want to get overly excited about such things then maybe we should figure out a way to take various people out of history because of their dalliances. The list would be endless and we would be with great blank spots in our history.

On a more mundane level, Mr. Spitzer could have better "gotten his rocks off" helicopter or cat skiing in British Columbia, Canada. Or maybe "base jumping" from skyscrapers in Singapore or bridges in Colorado.

Or, maybe driving a long haul truck after 10 hours behind the wheel in conditions of ice and snow in the Montana Rockies pulling a tanker with 6000 gallons of highly hazardous material in it on the way to a laminating plant in Oregon.

Fed. R. Evid. 404(b)

It seems the government wants to use Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) to show predisposition to commit bribery on the part of Dick Scruggs, Zach Scruggs and Sid Backstrom. They was to use the information from Joey Langston and Tim Balducci regarding the Wilson Case before Judge Bobby DeLaughter to show in essence that the defendants had bribery in thier hearts when Judge Lackey, a government agent acting outside of his authority and outside of various rules applicable to him, put the sting on Tim Balducci. Balducci supposedly being the agent for the defendants.

This is very interesting. What is of real interest is whether it is proper to use 404(b) evidence to proof a predisposition to commit a crime. That, it seems, is what has to be established by the government in this entrapment case, this outrageous government act entrapment case.

One can imagine using such evidence to help establish a crime. One has a hard time imagining using such evidence, or having the right to use such evidence, to establish predisposition regarding defending against entrapment.

Or, looking at it another way, using such evidence to excuse the conduct of the government and Judge Lackey.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Spitzer

Years ago I worked with a person who was quite publicly visible in a certain jurisdiction and who was clearly in the sights of a certain extremely powerful organization. I recall a story of my friend being approached one night in a Holiday Inn by a very attractive woman who sought his attentions. He turned her down. With some cleverness and other come-ons my friend could have succumbed.

So I wonder, was Eliot Spitzer set up? He certainly did not have friends in high places.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Earwigging -- A Mississippi Tradition

Mississippi has a long history of an unusual pratice -- earwigging. Earwigging means "to annoy or attempt to influence by private talk ."

In the past century, Mississippi developed rules of trial practice which were directed toward bringing an end to the practice. The Mississippi Law Journal in 1936 - 1937 discussed such a rule -- for example Chancery Rule 30:

Rule 30.-EARWIGGING THE CHANCELLOR PROHIBITED. No person shall undertake to discuss with or in the presence or hearing of the Chancellor the law or the facts or alleged facts of any litigated cause then pending in the court or likely to be instituted therein, except in the orderly progress of the trial, and arguments or briefs connected therewith; nor attempt in any manner except as above stated, to influence his decision in any such cause or matter. Any person who shall violate this rule, knowing that such conduct is prohibited, shall be guilty of a contempt.

Proceedings of the Thirty-First Annual Meeting of the Mississippi State Bar [comments] ,9 Miss. L.J. 6 (1936-1937)

This rule was commented on as follows:
Some lawyers have ingenious methods of evading this rule, and it is almost impossible sometimes to prevent ignorant laymen from approaching the chancellor about a particular law suit. Almost every term of court someone attempts to talk to me about their cook who has a divorce case in my court, and how much she has been wronged. They always carefully preface their conversation with the statement that they wouldn't try to influence the court for the world.


Current Mississippi Circuit Court Rules (like other Mississippi court rules) include a rule prohibiting earwigging.

Rule 1.10 EARWIGGING PROHIBITED No person shall undertake to discuss with or in the presence or hearing of the judge the law or the facts or alleged facts of any case then pending in the court or likely to be instituted therein, except in the orderly progress of the trial, and arguments or briefs connected therewith; nor attempt in any manner, except as stated above, to influence the decision of the judge in any such case or matter.

The tradition of earwigging is so common the rules adopted by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance include a rule prohibiting earwigging. Commission Rule 5.H "Earwigging Prohibited."

This rule is similar to the Chancery Court rule above regarding punishment for rule violation. Punishment for "knowingly" violating the rule may be "contempt." But, the earlier Chancery rule said if one violated the rule "[he] shall be guilty of contempt."

The current court rules do not have this "contempt" provision. That is to say, a specific punishment is not provided for. Earwigging, is not a misdemeanor or a felony. It is just a rule of court.

So in the Scruggs Litigation what do we have in relation to this historical phenomenon of an usual Mississippi tradition – earwigging?

It seems we may have a situation where a trial judge engaged in earwigging with the attorney(s) for the plaintiff in the Jones v. Scruggs case. Evidence of the earwigging is found in the fact of the very unusual ore tenus motion whereby the judge entered an order sealing the file of the case from all the world open to be unsealed in the sole discretion of the attorney who filed the case.

Next we have the same judge again engaging in earwigging with a person who was a friend of one of the defendants in the action about the case but only such that the judge might know that all the defendant might want in the case was that it be sent to arbitration as provided in the agreement between the parties.

We also have two old friends talking about the retirement of the older friend and the new law firm of the younger friend.

Then, after several days, the judge decides earwigging he had wrongfully engaged in violation of a court rule could lead to something better. An effort to use his friend to bring down a lawyer who was not liked by a segment of the Mississippi bar and judicial system and representatives of the Office of the United States Attorney.

It also may have been a contributing factor that the judge knew his wrongful earwigging could lead to something against him. He was a member of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance. The Commission had recently been involved in disciplinary actions where the judge disciplined had engaged in ex parte contact with attorneys and parties.

The judge becomes an agent of the U.S. Attorney. In agreeing to do so, the judge agrees that he will violate the authority of his office, State Judges are not elected act as agents for the government of the united states. He also violates the principles of separation of power between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government. And, significantly, on his own he decides it is permissible for him to violate numerous provisions of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct.

Making matters even worse, the judge in question was and is a member of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.

Committed as an agent for the federal government, the judge begins to use his friend to capture the target, Richard Scruggs. The judge pursues his friend.

At first he engages in more earwigging with the attorney for the plaintiff in the Jones Case. He then says he is going to recuse himself and tells his other earwigging partners. This was before he became a government agent. Once an agent, he says he is not going to recuse himself from the case. Obvioulsy, he wanted to pursue his earwigging of his friend, his rule violating earwigging to trap his friend and perhaps his friend's friend.

Weeks go by. During that period, the judge's friend engages in actions which are entirely irrational regarding the creation of a law firm with a non-lawyer. The friend and the non-lawyer write strange and overly aggressive letters to a local lawyer who is criticizing the new law firm and is saying the combination of a lawyer and a non-lawyer in a law firm is a violation of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct.

The judge knows all about his friend's meltdown and he knows of the content of the letters. At this point he then begins to push a scheme whereby he convinces his friend that he is in desperate financial trouble. He needs money and he needs it fast. The young friend goes along and agrees to help. He is now trapped. Aware that another lawyer in the state was just sentenced to 11 years in prison for alleged wrongdoing with a judge he agrees to become involved in the judge's scheme to trap his friend.

If the foregoing is true, what the judge and the federal government have done is extremely troublesome. We cannot have a system of justice due the respect and trust of the people if this sort of conduct is allowed.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Jefferson Davis, Mississippian

This morning I read the first few chapters of Shelby Foote's Civil War Narrative. I read about Jefferson Davis, his youth, his character, his desire to be a leader of his people, his tenacity and his heroism. Quite remarkable. We have little knowledge of the way in which realities impose themselves on character, even sometimes flawed character. As it is said, the line between good and evil shifts in the soul of every man. Every man! I find it more than passing strange people these days and in the Scruggs Litigation find it so easy to judge. I find it sad, and I find it immoral.

And, that is what I also want to say. What to we look for in the law, in judging? We want to have faith in the process and the people. We know there is an animating principle at work in the core of the process. So what is it? I listened to Abraham Lincoln's rebuttal to the speech Stephen Douglas gave about Kansas - Nebraska Act, the one he gave in Peoria, Illinois. The first response Mr. Lincoln gave to one of Douglas' speeches. What was the essential point? It was simply this, morality.

I particularly object to the NEW position which the avowed principle of this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I object to it because it assumes that there CAN be a MORAL RIGHT in the enslaving of one man by another.
It was immoral to treat another human being as a chattel. And, that was it, and that was all.