Attorney bails on Scruggs case

John O'Brien Jan. 8, 2008, 4:19pm




OXFORD, Miss. - Booneville attorney Joey Langston, whose offices were searched last month by the FBI, has withdrawn as counsel for indicted trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs.

Langston filed the motion Tuesday, the same day a federal grand jury was meeting to hear testimony about a 1994 attorneys fees case involving Scruggs and Langston. Federal investigators had raided the Langston Law Firm offices with the hopes of finding documents related to the case.

Langston's motivation for withdrawing is unknown. Langston attorney William Quin, who also withdrew, did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

A message left with the U.S. Attorney's office in Oxford seeking information on any indictments involving the case was also not immediately returned.

"(O)ther counsel have made an appearance on behalf of the Defendant, Richard F. 'Dickie' Scruggs; and, Joseph C. Langston, William M. Quin, II, and The Langston Law Firm, P.A., respectfully request that this Honorable Court allow Joseph C. Langston, William M. Quin, II, and The Langston Law Firm, P.A., to withdraw as counsel of record for the Defendant, Richard F. 'Dickie' Scruggs, in this matter," the motion says.

Federal prosecutors say Scruggs and four others, including his son Zach, conspired to bribe Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $40,000 in a $26.5 million attorneys fees dispute. The fees were earned when 640 Hurricane Katrina cases against State Farm Insurance Cos. were settled.

One of the five defendants, Timothy Balducci, pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators. He is famously quoted in the indictment as having told Lackey that, "Over the last five or six years there ... are bodies buried that ... (Scruggs) and I know where ... (they) are."

The suit filed in 1994 involved attorneys fees paid by asbestos companies, according to a report in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

In 2005, a federal judge ordered Scruggs to pay attorney Alwyn Luckey more than $17 million. A special master recommended that Luckey's former partner ask for more than $15 million from Scruggs, who hired Langston as his lead counsel.

However, Hinds County Judge Bobby DeLaughter disagreed and ordered Scruggs pay only $1.5 million in late payments. The case was eventually settled when DeLaughter told the two sides that a trial would only settle bragging rights because all that was left was a "negative balance," the report says.

Scruggs and Langston both have ties to the Attorney General's office in Mississippi. Scruggs was hired by then-Attorney General Mike Moore in the 1990s to represent the State in its suit against tobacco companies, resulting in nearly $1 billion in attorneys fees for Scruggs' firm.

Langston is currently in a fight with outgoing state Auditor Phil Bryant, who soon will take office as Lieutenant Governor, over attorneys fees earned in the $100 million settlement with MCI in 2005. Langston, a campaign contributor to current Attorney General Jim Hood, was hired by Hood as a special assistant attorney general for the case.

Hood also hired Langston's firm for the State's case against prescription drug maker Eli Lilly. Scruggs is also a campaign contributor of Hood's.

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