Results matching “"paul minor"”

On the Scruggs scandals, "Kings of Tort" - PointOfLaw Forum

In the mail: the new book by Alan Lange (YallPolitics) and prosecutor Tom Dawson telling "The true story of Dickie Scruggs, Paul Minor, and two decades of political and legal manipulation in Mississippi" (earlier).

Around the web, December 13 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Fifth Circuit overturns "federal program bribery" convictions of Paul Minor, Wes Teel and John Whitfield in Mississippi, leaves intact other convictions [Overlawyered and links there]
  • "The Harvard Law School Guide to Conservative/Libertarian Public Interest Law" [Somin/Volokh]
  • "Lawrence W. Schonbrun: Class-action lawyers picking their clients' pockets" [Buffalo News]
  • "Michigan man's 24th lawsuit threatens family business" and other new stories posted to Chamber site Faces of Lawsuit Abuse;
  • Consol Energy slates major coal-mining layoffs in West Virginia, cites lawsuits among reasons [Carter at ShopFloor]
  • Why not just abolish Institutional Review Boards' (IRBs') oversight of behavioral, legal and sociological (as distinct from medical) research? [Adam Benforado, Concurring Opinions; earlier coverage of IRBs here, here, and, on medical review, here and here]
  • Bonus: the essay question from Prof. Eugene Volokh's latest torts exam.

Follow-up: DeLaughter Plea Deal and Factual Basis - PointOfLaw Forum

As a former Mississippian with several friends and relatives still residing in the state, I have taken a tremendous interest in the scandals that have brought down Dickie Scruggs, Paul Minor, Ed Peters, and several other big names in Mississippi legal circles in recent years. So forgive me if I revisit my earlier post about Judge Bobby DeLaughter's guilty plea with a nod to today's follow-up at Y'all Politics concerning the plea agreement and factual basis in that case.

Under the plea agreement, DeLaughter agreed to plead guilty to "obstructing, influencing and impeding a federal corruption investigation and grand jury proceeding[.]" The United States agreed to dismiss the remaining charges following sentencing, and the parties agreed that DeLaughter's sentence should be 18 months imprisonment.

The Factual Basis is an interesting read. In addition to a clear statement of the facts in support of the obstruction charge, the summary of the testimony to come from Ed Peters (who was paid $1 million by Scruggs to influence DeLaughter) and Timothy Balducci (the go-between in the bribery scandal that brought down Scruggs) suggests DeLaughter had good reason to lie to the FBI about the secret communications flowing back and forth between DeLaughter and Scruggs. According to the government, these communications gave the Scruggs team the opportunity to address DeLaughter's reservations about some issues and, in at least one case, to avoid a critical misstep once they learned that DeLaughter was going to rule in their favor.

Although Scruggs and some Scruggs apologists have, at times, attempted to downplay the various scandals as "mere" Mississippi-style "earwigging" - basically, having someone with influence with a presiding judge use that influence to lobby the judge to rule in your favor - the bribery case that ended Scruggs' career and the DeLaughter case demonstrate that earwigging can be an ethical slippery slope. In the first, Judge Lackey properly understood the wink-and-a-nod attempt to obtain financial influence over him for what it was - a bribe - and quickly led to the downfall of Scruggs and several others. In the latter, the improper contacts were apparently so extreme and prejudicial that DeLaughter would go to great lengths to avoid their disclosure, even committing a federal crime in the process. Even if DeLaughter had reasonable, legal explanations for his actions in the case, the old adage "it's not the crime but the coverup" still seems applicable.

Around the web, February 8 - PointOfLaw Forum

Election miscellany - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Most surprising and dismaying news of the night for the reform cause: Justice Cliff Taylor's loss in Michigan, described by Carter below. No contemporary state jurist I can think of has accomplished more toward causes I admire, or will be missed more. I hadn't blogged much on this, assuming that Taylor was in no danger; his qualifications so outshone those of his Democratic challenger that even the Detroit Free Press, which was extremely hostile toward his judicial philosophy, had endorsed him. It's a sad day. Democrats ran a last-minute ad campaign accusing Taylor of sleeping on the bench, which he told the Detroit News "wasn't true, but it was a very compelling piece of political theater". You think those good-government groups that get upset about negative judicial campaigning are going to hop on this?
  • Mississippi Supreme Court justice Oliver Diaz, who twice won acquittal in the Paul Minor scandal, lost his seat as did two others on his court. Jake Adams at Mississippi Business Law Blog has much more as does YallPolitics. Democrats (and trial lawyer surrogates Texas Watch and Texans for Public Justice) failed to unseat any of the Republicans on the Texas Supreme Court despite a notably nasty campaign. Democrats captured two vacant high court seats in West Virginia.
  • Rep. Tom McClintock, notable California conservative in the House, is ahead by 451 votes (via) and Arizona's reform-oriented Rep. John Shadegg kept his seat.
  • Controversial San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, a former plaintiff's class action attorney, lost his reelection bid [AmLaw Daily]
  • Democrats are expected to take control of the New York Senate, Delaware House and Ohio House, completing their control of those legislatures. In Washington state, incumbent Democratic governor Christine Gregoire, a favorite of plaintiff's-bar donors since her role in the 1998 state-tobacco settlement, won her rematch with Dino Rossi.
  • Legal reformers will be in a defensive crouch in Washington, D.C. as well as many other places for a while, notes MI's Jim Copland.

Around the web, August 28 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Should New York replace neurologically impaired infant litigation with no-fault fund? [Barringer/Berkowitz, NY Sun via Common Good]
  • Fifth Circuit denies Paul Minor's request for prison release [YallPolitics]
  • Federal judge sanctions attorney John Aretakis for "hijacking" pro bono tenant case to advance "scurrilous" vendetta against Roman Catholic Church [NYLJ]
  • U.K.: Should companies be legally obliged to retain records of old liability insurance, the better to facilitate asbestos litigation? [Times Online]
  • Plan administrators had better watch out, Supreme Court is expanding individual right to sue under ERISA [Motzenbecker/WLF on LaRue, PDF]
  • Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, often criticized in this space, "leaning" toward run for governor in 2010 [Tulsa World courtesy U.S. Chamber]

Around the web, August 7 - PointOfLaw Forum

Around the web, July 11 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Our own Ted Frank on punitive damages after the Exxon Shipping decision [yesterday's WSJ]. Also check out Gordon Crovitz's take [WSJ earlier]
  • After acquittal of Mills, Kentucky fen-phen trial results in hung jury for Gallion and Cunningham; prosecutorial fumbles blamed [Ted at OL]
  • Adventures in class action choice of law: New Mexico high court sees no problem applying its law to transactions in other states [Albuquerque Journal courtesy US Chamber]
  • Alabama drug-pricing trial: Jere Beasley gets jury to award $114 million against Glaxo and Novartis, demand letters sent to 69 other drugmakers charged with the same supposed fraud [CNBC, FiercePharma]
  • Abbe Lowell files Fifth Circuit appeal of client Paul Minor's conviction [White Collar Crime Prof Blog, appeal in PDF]
  • WSJ on hurricane insurance models is stronger on hand-wringing than on analytical rigor [Salmon, Portfolio]
  • Defense bar lagging plaintiffs' in new media involvement? [Genova]

Was Paul Minor framed? - PointOfLaw Forum

In a commentary that's longer on insinuation than on proof, New York Times editorialist Adam Cohen contends in Thursday's paper that prominent Mississippi trial lawyer Paul Minor, sentenced last month to eleven years in a long-running judicial bribery scandal, was framed by a Republican conspiracy. Cohen's argument runs more or less as follows: Minor may have arranged loans and financial favors for local judges, but "everyone" in the justice system down there does similarly "questionable" things, so "a prosecutor can haul any lawyer and judge he doesn�t like before a grand jury and charge corruption". Really? Any lawyer, and any judge? There are no lawyers in Mississippi who refrain from funneling money under the table to judges as Minor did, and no judges who refrain from accepting money of this sort? Names and particulars would be most welcome here, but are quite absent from Cohen's account.

Minor, of course, was not just hauled before a grand jury but convicted by an actual trial jury of the charges Cohen dismisses as "unconvincing". But let that pass. The point is that since anyone could be prosecuted but only Democratic donor Minor was, the explanation must lie in political favoritism; on this point Cohen cites Minor's own lawyers, no doubt a very objective source, who "say prosecutors were not interested in going after similar activity by trial lawyers who contributed to Republicans". Which trial lawyers are those? Again, Cohen mentions none.

Much heavy breathing ensues about how the whole thing was a plot to knock off the trial lawyers as a political base for Mississippi Democrats. Indeed, "the case intimidated trial lawyers into stopping their political activity." That must be why the Times reported on Wednesday that the Mississippi Democratic Party is running a successful plaintiff's lawyer for governor, why another successful plaintiff's lawyer has captured the Republican (!) nomination for attorney general against an incumbent who is himself joined at the political hip with trial lawyers, why trial lawyer donations just knocked off an incumbent insurance commissioner who was not sufficiently cooperative with the wishes of Katrina litigators, and so forth. If Minor's downfall occasioned a collapse of the political clout of trial lawyers in Mississippi, someone must have forgotten to tell the trial lawyers about it.

If you think Cohen might be going a bit out on a limb in asserting a scandal based on this evidence, wait till you see the version of the same argument on offer at Harper's, where Columbia law lecturer and Balkinization contributor Scott Horton wholeheartedly endorses a master-key set of conspiracy theories in which villains that include Antonin Scalia and his duck-hunting partners, in concert with many other sinister interests, gleefully manipulate Magnolia State politics from afar. Horton relies heavily on unnamed secret informants, such as "two sources, one of them inside of the Justice Department" who assure him that the conspiracy is even worse than he could imagine, and that trial lawyers nationwide are being maliciously brought up on technicalities in a manner reminiscent of an Eastern European dictatorship.

Any account of prosecutorial favoritism in the Minor affair, of course, must begin (and perhaps end) with the success of Richard ("Dickie") Scruggs at dodging charges, despite having taken part in some questionable transactions. Scruggs's defenders would maintain that his role in the transactions was simply less egregious than Minor's. Horton prefers the alternative explanation that Scruggs, who is the brother-in-law of Trent Lott, wields more political clout than Minor. To make the favoritism story fit, Horton presents Scruggs as a figure who "tends to support the Republicans, not the Democrats", which at the least oversimplifies the complicated bipartisan political persona of the self-identified Democrat, "almost exclusively a supporter of Mississippi Democrats" and a key backer of national Democrats as well. And it also seems to miss the point that if national Chamber of Commerce types had been secretly pulling the prosecutorial strings, as Horton repeatedly hints, you'd think they would infinitely have preferred to nail the big-league national player (Scruggs) and let the locally famous one (Minor) get off than the reverse. But why let such complications get in the way of a good story?

Once among the South's most financially successful and politically influential plaintiff's lawyers, attorney Paul Minor was sentenced on Friday to 11 years in federal prison following his conviction in a judicial bribery scandal we've covered extensively at Overlawyered. Two former judges convicted in the case, John Whitfield and Wes Teel, drew sentences of 110 months and 70 months respectively. Minor's lawyers had asked that he be sentenced to time served, and supporters had sent letters by the sackful asking for leniency. ("Gulf Coast lawyer Paul Minor gets 11 years in prison for bribing Miss. judges", AP/Natchez Democrat, Sept. 7; Jimmie Gates, "Minor, ex-judges sentenced in bribery case", Jackson Clarion Ledger, Sept. 7).

Judge Henry Wingate also fined Minor $2.75 million and ordered him to pay $1.5 million in restitution, not quite as telling a blow to his fortunes as one might assume, given that "Minor earns up to $2.5 million a year from a settlement with tobacco companies," not to mention all the other money he's made (Robin Fitzgerald, "'Lady Justice Is Sobbing", Biloxi Sun-Herald, Sept. 8). Minor is also being sued by insurer USF&G, which paid out a $1.5 million settlement to a bank represented by Minor in a case before Judge Teel. (Julie Goodman, "Minor's legal woes won't end when he goes to prison", Jackson Clarion Ledger, Sept. 8)(cross-posted from Overlawyered).

Paul Minor sentencing hearing - PointOfLaw Forum

The immensely successful Mississippi injury lawyer, convicted on 11 counts including racketeering and bribery, has plenty of supporters who've been sending letters to the judge by the sackful urging mercy. According to one, for Minor to have funneled money to friendly judges should be viewed in the light of "his early efforts to champion the rights of those in south Mississippi who were unable to access the legal system". Minor's father, the locally famous columnist Bill Minor, declared: "If he had any practice of bribing people, you would have known about it before this." Wouldn't that depend on how careful he was about covering the traces? U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate's decision on sentencing is expected soon. Earlier coverage of the Minor affair here and, at Overlawyered, here.

As the AP reports, infamous plaintiffs' attorney Paul Minor, who amassed a fortune from asbestos, tobacco, med-mal and automobile suits, was found guilty of 11 crimes, ranging from racketeering to bribery. He faces up to 95 years in prison.

Convicted of receiving his bribes were former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancellor Wes Teel. Whitfield could get a 50-year term and Teel could get 25 years.

Sentencing for all three was set for June 14.

Wally discussed this case two weeks ago, appropriately noting the NY Times' favorable treatment of the likes of Minor and Dickie Scruggs. Here's hoping they will find news of Minor's conviction fit to print.

Another favorable Scruggs profile in NYT - PointOfLaw Forum

[Originally posted Sat. 3/17 11:30 a.m., bumped for Monday readers]

Because the moistly admiring profile that it ran a year and a half ago ($) just wasn't enough, the New York Times was back yesterday with another moistly admiring profile of trial lawyer zillionaire Richard ("Dickie") Scruggs, once again letting Scruggs's contentions pass without challenge on a series of controversial Katrina-coverage questions and for good measure quoting a common-man description of the Pascagoula potentate, by a casino security guard, as "good people. ... If he tells you something, it�s gospel."

Although Scruggs has been making a lot of news in recent days, the Times piece is curiously selective about what it chooses to mention. For example, the profile does not consider it newsworthy that Scruggs is due in court next week to answer contempt charges relating to his handling of much-trumpeted adjustment documents which are said to show that State Farm over-scrutinized claims of wind damage. Those who read a WSJ editorial on Thursday were aware that this coming Wednesday, March 21, federal judge William M. Acker Jr., in Alabama has scheduled a hearing on whether Scruggs should be held in contempt for having arranged with his pal, Mississippi AG Jim Hood, to shuffle some of the papers into Hood's possession in order to evade an injunction requiring their return. The W$J editorial fills in some of the legal and ethical background about the story, which

revolves around E.A. Renfroe, a company with offices in Alabama that was hired by State Farm to send insurance adjusters to evaluate Katrina claims. Two sisters, Cori Rigsby Moran and Kerri Rigsby, had worked as adjusters for Renfroe since the late 1990s. Both had signed employment agreements and codes of conduct promising to protect the confidential information of companies for which Renfroe worked.

Yet around February of 2006, the Rigsby sisters seemed to be thinking of something beyond contracts. According to court documents, they met with Mr. Scruggs (a friend of their mother's) and gave him State Farm documents they'd stolen from work. Mr. Scruggs at this point was working on his civil litigation against insurers, and the Rigsbys started clandestinely working with him. In June of 2006, the two copied 15,000 more pages of claims information and, on Mr. Scruggs's advice, gave a copy first to Mr. Hood and then to Mr. Scruggs. They also went on national television to crow about their theft, and to accuse State Farm of misconduct....

...neither woman went to Renfroe management with their concerns before they stole the papers. Instead, they both took jobs with the Scruggs Katrina Group -- a coalition of trial lawyers suing over the hurricane -- and are now each earning $150,000 a year as "consultants" for advising on insurance litigation.

Nor does the Times mention Scruggs's appearance last week as a witness in the high-profile retrial of his former close associate, leading Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, on charges of judicial bribery. The U.S. Department of Justice offered Scruggs immunity for his testimony; Scruggs chose not to take the proffer of immunity and testified anyway, but the whole episode, with its details of how Scruggs arranged for loans and repayments for friendly judges, might have introduced a jarring note into all the talk about "good people" and taking his word as gospel and so forth.

Times insurance-beat reporter Joseph Treaster does quote a few Scruggs critics, who it seems "sniff" their objections over matters of "decorum". Little or no mention is made of the ethical questions and allegations of orchestrating meritless legal claims that have dogged the Scruggs law practice over its tobacco, asbestos, HMO, and hospital claims (and on and on).

Even assuming Katrina litigation were to be the article's only focus, Friday's beat-sweetener has curious omissions. For example, in a passing mention of "complaints from rival lawyers about potential fees of more than $46 million for Mr. Scruggs and the pick-up team of two dozen lawyers in his Scruggs Katrina Group", you'd think a Times reporter might pursue the question of how well that $46 million figure squares with Scruggs's talk a year and a half ago about how "he did not see the insurance battle as a personal gold mine. He said he was prepared to take as little as 1 percent of any settlement or jury award -- far less than the typical contingency fee of one-third or more". It's hardly as if reporter Treaster could have missed the earlier profile where those lines appeared, since it carried his co-byline. Or is the danger that readers will suspect that they -- and the newspaper's own editors -- are being played for credulous fools by Mr. Scruggs's public relations machine?

P.S. I see Peter Lattman at the WSJ law blog preceded me in taking note of the contrast between the NYT's and WSJ's Scruggses.