Scruggs book coming Dec. 2

By John O'Brien | Nov 20, 2009


JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Throughout the downfall of famed plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, visitors to Mississippi political Web site Y'All Politics noted that the saga would make a good book.

Site operator Alan Lange must have been paying attention, because he and former federal prosecutor Tom Dawson are gearing up for the release of their book "Kings of Tort," which will be available nationwide Dec. 2.

Lange's site gathered news reports and published original posts while the story of Scruggs began in Nov. 2007. Dawson was an Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the case and retired this year.

The two meet at a University of Mississippi football game in 2008 and decided to write the book together months later.

"We were both convinced that there would likely not be a narrative that would put the scandal in the correct historical context," said Lange, who also runs a legal staffing company.

"Small businesspeople like myself have long suspected that Scruggs was, in fact, telling the truth when he bragged about 'magic jurisdictions' that fundamentally lacked fairness for civil defendants.

"I thought it was critical to get the facts out there in context so that everyone could recognize the signs of this corruption and be on guard so it will never happen again."

Lange and Dawson compiled more than 100 sources like news reports and court documents, and used Dawson's experience on the case to provide insight into the behind-the-scenes elements of the investigation.

Two state judges, several high-profile attorneys, two state attorneys general and a former U.S. Senator make up the key players in the story.

Scruggs has pleaded guilty in two separate cases to bribing state judges for favorable rulings in civil lawsuits that were filed by former business partners who argued with Scruggs over their shares of attorneys fees. He received a total of 7 1/2 years in prison.

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.

He was a successful asbestos attorney before that, and most recently became involved in Hurricane Katrina litigation. The story of fellow incarcerated asbestos lawyer Paul Minor is also explored in the book.

Lange said he asked counsel for Scruggs and his son and former law partner Zach for an interview but was denied. Former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, who hired Scruggs for the tobacco case and represented Zach during criminal proceedings, also denied an interview request, as did current state Attorney General Jim Hood.

Curtis Wilkie, a friend of Scruggs' and journalism professor at Ole Miss, is also writing a book on the subject, Lange said.

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

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