U.S. SC to decide on appeal of Scruggs' son

By Chris Dickerson | Jan 31, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) -- The U.S. Supreme Court soon will decide whether to hear an appeal from the son of Dickie Scruggs.

The Court will have a conference Feb. 15 to decide to hear Zach Scruggs' appeal. He was implicated for knowing about the judicial corruption scheme that led to his father's downfall.

In October, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Zach Scruggs' conviction after he pleaded guilty to failing to report the conspiracy to improperly influence a judge in a case that had more than $26.5 million in legal fees. Zach Scruggs, a law partner with his father, served a 14-month prison sentence and lost his law license.

U.S. Supreme Court officials said a results of the hearing could be announced shortly after the conference.

On March 4, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear Dickie Scruggs' appeal of his 2009 conviction concerning improper influence on a judge - former Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter - who was in charge of a case regarding legal fees involving Scruggs and others.

Dickie Scruggs, 66, recently finished serving time after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to bribe another judge - Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey. Dickie Scruggs is free on $2 million bond until the DeLaughter-case appeal is resolved.

Dickie Scruggs says he didn't bribe DeLaughter, instead saying that when he told the judge he would suggest him for a federal judgeship that it was "political speech."

DeLaughter says he was not bribed, but he did plead guilty to improper communications about the Dickie Scruggs lawsuit. He served prison time, but it now free.

Last year, Dickie Scruggs argued that his guilty pleas in the two bribery schemes should be vacated.

Dickie Scruggs, his son Zach, attorneys Sidney Backstrom and Timothy Balducci and former state Auditor Steven Patterson were charged in 2007 with attempting to bribe 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 Dickie 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.

Known as an asbestos attorney, 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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