Friday, November 30, 2007

You Can Almost Smell The Magnolias

Image credit: The Oxford [Mississippi] Heritage Society (see Note 1)

It's a plot you'd expect to see in a John Grisham novel: a successful, politically connected lawyer who fights greedy tobacco and insurance companies is indicted for bribing the judge in what may be the case of his career, a case in which he is representing Katrina victims against one of those greedy insurance companies. Perhaps not coincidentally, John Grisham knows these people. Yep, this is Southern legal drama at its best. Well, maybe not its best - no one's been murdered yet (thankfully). Almost makes me crave a mint julep and a front porch on which to sip it:

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs has carefully crafted an image as an aw-shucks country lawyer who champions the little guy in David-and-Goliath legal battles.

But in truth, Scruggs is himself a giant - a legend of the Mississippi bar, a supremely well-connected political insider, and one of the richest men in one of the poorest states in the Union, having made hundreds of millions of dollars from taking on Big Tobacco and asbestos and insurance companies.

Now he faces the fight of his life over a relatively modest $50,000 - the amount prosecutors say he offered to a Mississippi judge as a bribe.

Bribery allegations threaten career of lawyer Dickie Scruggs

Lotus, over at her new blog Folo, has been following this drama, with a followup today. Go over and pay her a visit. She's made more sense out of this thing than I could have.

Much has been made of Richard Scrugg's ties to Hillary Clinton, but for some reason the mainstream press have failed to note some of his other connections:

But his political loyalties have always been a little suspect, and not just because of his in-law status. This year, for instance, he has given nearly $30,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and several thousand dollars to Joe Biden. But he's also contributed to Republican John McCain. Next month, Bill Clinton was scheduled to headline a fundraiser for his wife at Scruggs' Oxford home. Not surprisingly, today a Clinton spokesman tells Mother Jones that the event is "not happening."

Hillary Clinton Says Bye-Bye to Indicted Trial Lawyer

[bold emphasis mine]

Like many folks whose living depends at least partly on government largess, Dickie Scruggs has been hedging his bets. Yet only the Clinton connection receives any attention. Wonder why?

Note 1: Oxford is home to both John Grisham and Dickie Scruggs, as reported in this AP article.

UPDATE: Added expository quote from the Associated Press, and corrected another link which has gone south since I published earlier.

Lotus has another article up, this one about the judge in the case, Henry L. Lackey. As she relates, little about this case makes sense. Scruggs and Lackey undoubtedly have known each other, if not personally than certainly by reputation, for decades. That Scruggs would try to bribe him now just doesn't make sense if Lackey were clearly not the sort of person who accepts bribes.

Like I said, this one is interesting.

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