Miss. Bar dismisses Zach Scruggs' complaint

John O'Brien Mar. 21, 2011, 1:28pm


JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - A complaint made by the son of disgraced plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs about his lawyer's role in his guilty plea has been dismissed by the Mississippi Bar Association.

Zach Scruggs pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony but has served his jail time and is seeking to have his guilty plea vacated. One of his arguments is that his former attorney, Tony Farese, secretly negotiated a plea deal for fellow attorney Joey Langston while representing him.

The Mississippi political website Y'All Politics reported Monday that the Mississippi Bar dismissed the complaint.

"In my response, I denied the allegations made against me by Zach Scruggs, and supported my position through pleadings, contracts, and affidavits," Farese said in a statement.

"At that time, I stated that I had 'acted ethically at all times in my representation of Zach Scruggs and Joey Langston.' Ultimately, after termination of my representation of Zach Scruggs, and while being represented by four other defense attorneys, including former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, Zach Scruggs decided not to exercise his right to a trial, but instead voluntarily pled guilty to misprision of a felony..."

The two Scruggses, attorneys Sidney Backstrom and Timothy Balducci and former state Auditor Steven Patterson were charged in 2007 with attempting to bribe Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $50,000 for a favorable ruling in a dispute over Hurricane Katrina attorneys fees.

All five pleaded guilty, and Dickie Scruggs received a five-year prison sentence.

Zach Scruggs also says federal prosecutors claimed the testimony of attorney Joey Langston, who represented Dickie Scruggs in a case at the center of another judicial bribery scheme, would implicate Zach Scruggs.

In the case Zach Scruggs says Langston was going to implicate him, Balducci teamed with Langston to represent Dickie Scruggs in another fees dispute.

It is alleged that the two paid $1 million to former Hinds District Attorney Ed Peters, who used to work with Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter, to bribe the judge with the promise of a federal judgeship.

Dickie Scruggs pleaded guilty to the scheme, receiving an extra 2 1/2 years in prison. Langston received three years when he pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Dickie Scruggs gained notoriety when his work helped lead to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which has an estimated worth of $246 billion for the 52 participating territories and states. Mississippi is not one of them, but has its own separate agreement.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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