Attorneys urge probation for Zach Scruggs

Chris Rizo Jul. 1, 2008, 2:37pm

Dickie Scruggs

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline)--Zach Scruggs - the son of a once-high-profile-but-now-disgraced lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs - deserves probation for his role in a judicial bribery conspiracy led by his father, attorneys say.

On Wednesday, Zach Scruggs, 34, will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr., the same judge who sentenced his father recently to five years in federal prison for trying to bribe a judge.

Dickie Scruggs, 62, conspired to offer $50,000 to Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey in exchange for a favorable ruling in a dispute over $26.5 million in legal fees from a settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance cases.

Prosecutors have recommended probation for Zach Scruggs, who has pleaded guilty to knowing about the conspiracy and not reporting it to authorities.

Although Biggers sentenced other defendants in the case to the recommended sentence, there is no guarantee Zach will escape a prison cell, especially since the judge has questioned Zach Scruggs' perceived lack of remorse.

In a sentencing memorandum, Zach Scrugg's co-counsel, Todd Graves, a former U.S. attorney, said his client acknowledges he should have reported the bribery scheme to authorities.

"The defendant acknowledges that he should have reported these actions, and that this failure has cost him a federal felony conviction and the loss of a promising professional legal career," the sentencing memo says.

This matter has further cast untold pain upon his expecting wife and young children."

Zach Scruggs is also being represented by former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore.

The Mississippi Supreme Court will consider disbarment petitions against Dickie and Zach Scruggs in their July-August term.

Dickie Scruggs became a titan among trial lawyers by litigating asbestos cases, where he represented shipyard workers.

Hewas hired by then-Attorney General Moore to pursue a case against tobacco companies on behalf of the State, and his work led to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. It has an estimated worth of $246 billion for the 52 participating territories and states.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he grouped together a handful of law firms to create the Scruggs Katrina Group.

The group represented insurance policyholders who believed their insurance companies were misrepresenting the amount of damage done to their properties by wind (covered by the policy) and water (covered by a federal program).

More than 600 cases were settled early in 2007, earning the Scruggs Katrina Group $26.5 million in attorneys fees.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at

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