Scruggs make case to vacate guilty pleas

John O'Brien Mar. 30, 2012, 7:20am


OXFORD, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Disgraced plaintiffs attorneys Richard "Dickie" Scruggs argued during a two-day hearing that his guilty pleas in two judicial bribery schemes should be vacated.

Senior U.S. District Judge Gary Davidson held an evidentiary hearing this week on a motion to vacate the seven-and-a-half years in prison that Scruggs, who made his name in asbestos litigation and was a key figure in the states' massive case against the tobacco industry, accepted in 2009.

Tuesday, Davidson ordered a recess of two weeks for lawyers to prepare written arguments while he decides if former Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter, one of Scruggs' alleged bribery targets, will have to testify, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Scruggs' son Zach made a similar effort, though it was unsuccessful.

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.

It is also alleged that Scruggs paid $1 million to former Hinds District Attorney Ed Peters, who used to work with DeLaughter, to bribe the judge with the promise of a federal judgeship. Scruggs' brother-in-law is former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, who resigned a week before the charges were filed.

Dickie Scruggs pleaded guilty to the scheme, receiving an extra 2 1/2 years in prison. His attorney, Joey 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.

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