WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – An award-winning documentary chronicling personal injury lawyers who abused the nation’s civil justice system premieres Tuesday on national television.
“InJustice,” a one-hour film by Single Malt Media and producer Brian Kelly, will air at 9 p.m. Dec. 18 on AXS TV. Launched earlier this year by Mark Cuban, AXS is available on AT&T U-verse, Charter, Comcast/Xfinity, DirecTV, DISH Network, Insight, Suddenlink, Verizon FiOS and other television providers.
The movie, which highlights scams perpetrated by attorneys in asbestos and Fen-Phen litigation as well as the downfall of plaintiffs attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Legal Newsline is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the Chamber.
“When you look at the civil justice system, you see the amount of fraud that’s been perpetrated over the last 15 years, it makes you question the system,” Kelly says in a video on the film's website at www.injusticethefilm.com
“It makes you question ‘Can anyone of us walk into a courtroom and get a fair trial?’ Can you put together a company — start your own small company and not be sued for something that is not necessarily your fault or something you can prevent?”
Scruggs was a well-known asbestos attorney when he helped engineer a massive settlement with tobacco companies in the late 1990s on behalf of the state of Mississippi. Forty-six states eventually signed the Master Settlement Agreement, worth $246 billion, and the three other states entered into their own agreements.
But in the aftermath of 2005′s Hurricane Katrina, Scruggs and several other lawyers formed the Scruggs Katrina Group for the purpose of amassing claims against home insurers. He found himself in a dispute over attorneys fees with one of those firms.
In 2007, he was charged by federal prosecutors with attempting to bribe Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $50,000 in exchange for an order that would have compelled arbitration in the case. Lackey reported the offer made to him to the FBI, and Scruggs and four others pleaded guilty.
Scruggs then pleaded guilty to a separate judicial bribery scheme involving another fees dispute. He was sentenced to a total of 7 ½ years in prison.
Kelly said his own dealings with trial attorneys led to the idea for the movie. Other areas it will explore are: How the class action lawsuit was born from the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the tobacco settlement; silicosis litigation; and securities lawsuits.
The film premiered in 2011 on television. But after its premiere, Kelly said he started receiving requests from universities wanting to show the film to students and people who had not seen the film the first time wanting the chance to see it.
“People who hadn’t seen the film before wanted to see it,” Kelly said. “We were getting requests from universities wanting to show it to their students—and not just law students.”
Kelly said they decided to do a series of screenings of the film, which continued throughout the fall.
“We became really involved with social media this year to help spread the word about the film,” he said. “We’ve been screening the film in many places so far, and now we’re here in Charleston.”
“InJustice” won the 2011 Peer Award for Best Documentary. It is a narrative largely told by attorneys in their own words about what is wrong with the legal system and who is to blame.
For more information about InJustice, or to purchase the film, visit www.injusticethefilm.com.
For additional showtimes of the film on AXS, click here. AXS formerly was known as HD Net.