Scruggs continues Coghlan quest

John O'Brien Jan. 28, 2008, 1:26pm


OXFORD, Miss. - Indicted trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs is still trying to convince a federal judge to approve of Kenneth Coghlan as his new attorney.

Scruggs filed a motion Friday asking U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers to reconsider an earlier ruling that prevented Coghlan from serving as Scruggs' local counsel as he faces judicial bribery charges.

Coghlan formerly represnted Steven Patterson, the former state Auditor who pleaded guilty to his part in the alleged scheme.

"There are sound reasons for the Court to exercise its discretion to permit Mr. Coghlan to appear on behalf of Mr. Scruggs in this matter, notwithstanding his prior representation of Mr. Patterson," the motion says. "Mr. Patterson and Mr. Scruggs, both of whom are sophisticated clients familiar with the law, have each executed knowing and voluntary waivers of any possible conflict after consultation with independent counsel."

Scruggs, son Zach and fellow Scruggs Law Firm attorney Sidney Backstrom have all pleaded not guilty to federal charges that they conspired to bribe Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $40,000 in a dispute over at least $26.5 million in attorneys fees from a Hurricane Katrina settlement with State Farm Insurance Cos.

Attorney Timothy Balducci and Patterson have pleaded guilty since the Nov. 28 indictment.

"For an attorney to represent a defendant after previously representing another defendant in the same case, only to be later called upon to be part of that defense team's cross-examination... certainly does not pass the smell test," Biggers said.

Scruggs is required to obtain local counsel and is also represented by John Keker of San Francisco. When Biggers denied Scruggs' request to add Coghlan on Jan. 16, Keker asked for temporary permission to file motions without local counsel.

Biggers agreed, adding, "I'm not sure that's a good rule anyway." He also said Coghlan isn't the only attorney in the area.

"Mr. Scruggs believes that Mr. Coghlan is the very best attorney to assist his lead counsel in this matter and respectfully requests that the Court give due weight to his constitutional right to counsel of his own choosing," the motion says.

If the motion is denied, Scruggs says he plans to use Coghlan's advice on matters that do not implicate attorney-client privilege.

Booneville attorney Joey Langston, once Scruggs' counsel, has admitted guilt in a scheme where Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby Delaughter was offered consideration for a federal judgeship in exchange for a favorable ruling in another attorneys fees dispute allegedly involving Scruggs.

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