Results matching “scruggs”

Scruggs appeal denied - PointOfLaw Forum

Dickie Scruggs pled guilty to a scheme to bribe a judge, but has been trying to do undo his plea. The Fifth Circuit would have none of Scruggs's attempts to shoehorn an indictment for bribery under Skilling. More at Alan Lange's blog.

O'Quinn silicosis clients sue - PointOfLaw Forum

I was the first to report when John O'Quinn's breast-implant clients successfully sued his firm for tens of millions of dollars of improper overbilling. [April 2007; June 2007; July 2007; Olson follow-up December 2009]

Now a group of O'Quinn's silicosis mass-tort clients allege similar overbilling and double-billing, including the pass-along to clients of referral fees paid to medical testing companies; document destruction and coverup is also alleged. A former O'Quinn partner denies everything, and claims a state probate court already rejected the allegations. [Alison Frankel @ Reuters]

Garance Franke-Ruta has a rule regarding married politicians' affairs: paraphrased, it's "It's never two. It's either one, or many." It would seem probable that the same principle is true for mass-tort lawyers: why would an attorney who skims tens of millions of dollars of recovery from breast-implant clients suddenly turn ethical and fastidious when it comes to similarly situated silicosis clients? And if the silicosis allegations are true, perhaps fen-phen and asbestos clients of O'Quinn's might want to look at their bills a bit more carefully? Another question that comes to mind is whether O'Quinn was especially aggressive when it comes to mass-tort billing, or whether other mass-tort settlements from other attorneys have similar skimming. Every once in a while there's a news story that suggests this could be a fruitful line of inquiry. Dickie Scruggs was reckless enough to attempt to bribe judges to get an upper hand in fee-splitting disputes with fellow attorneys; is it possible that he also took advantage of less-sophisticated clients in easier-to-hide ways? And the thing that has surprised me most in my work with the Center for Class Action Fairness is how the Ted Frank of five years ago wasn't cynical enough in anticipating the ways class action counsel unfairly treat their clients. Scrutinizing the recovery of mass-tort settlement plaintiffs seems like it would be a potentially profitable niche for entrepreneurial attorneys. Though, in general, the legal system protects its own.

More on vice-presidential vetting - PointOfLaw Forum

The GQ story on vice-presidential vetting has a sidebar where I'm quoted about various hypothetical 2012 vice presidential candidates. What was published was a much shorter version of what I submitted to the magazine. As speculation increases (including my speaking on KPCC about the issue yesterday), I thought I might as well make the whole memo to GQ public, after the jump:

Scruggs tries to wiggle out of guilty plea - PointOfLaw Forum

Prosecutors charged Dickie Scruggs and Zach Scruggs with multiple crimes, and as part of plea bargaining, they pled guilty to honest services fraud. Zach previously unsuccessfully used the Skilling decision in an attempt to undo his guilty plea, and Alan Lange predicts that Dickie Scruggs's similar effort will come to naught, but imagines that Scruggs is hoping for positive PR implications.

But under our legal system, there's no penalty for, and thus no downside to, wasting a court's time with a motion with a 0.1% chance of success.

RIP James Q. Wilson - PointOfLaw Forum

Jim Hood reelected - PointOfLaw Forum

Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood won reelection in a landslide. Radley Balko tweets: "Mass corruption of state's justice system never an issue. Race was about $400 dinner at a steakhouse." And Balko is surely talking only about the criminal justice system there, not Hood's cozy relationship with trial lawyers where he delegates litigation to them that helps out the trial bar far more than taxpayers, or his carrying water for the now-convicted Dickie Scruggs's illegitimate litigation against insurance companies over Hurricane Katrina. [LNL]

The Hood reelection shows the problem of many states' constitutional structure. Mississippi voters have elected a governor, legislature, and high-court judiciary willing to restore the rule of law to the state and attempt to end its reputation as a judicial hellhole, but because trial lawyers control the office of a down-ballot executive branch race, the voters' will and true justice reform is hindered. Reform is needed.

Around the web, August 15 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • You probably heard that the Eleventh Circuit overturned part of PPACA. The nifty aspect of that is that, because the PPACA challengers lost on the issue of severability, they can appeal directly to the Supreme Court, forcing a cross-appeal to the Supreme Court, and ensuring that the Obama administration can't delay Supreme Court consideration past the 2012 election. The deciding vote was Clinton appointee Frank Hull. [Kerr @ Volokh; Adler @ Volokh; SCOTUSblog; Florida v. HHS; related: Richard Epstein]
  • Trask on Scruggs biography The Fall of the House of Zeus
  • California litigation lobby targets arbitration agreements in AB 1062. [BLD; ACIC]
  • The late Richard Nagareda's influence on Wal-Mart v. Dukes. [Frankel]
  • Olson on age discrimination laws. [Reason]
  • Texas bank focuses on small business loans even as economy hurts from drying up of credit in that area; naturally, federal regulators complain. Bank decides to go Galt to escape regulation and focus on its business absent FDIC insurance. [WSJ]
  • Utah trial court rejects "negligent directions" claim against Google brought by woman who walked into traffic. [Volokh]
  • How riots start, and how they can be stopped. [Glaeser]
  • Who lost the middle class? [City Journal]

No surprises on Zach Scruggs - PointOfLaw Forum

The Supreme Court limited the scope of the federal honest-services fraud law to cases of bribery and kickbacks. Zach Scruggs was convicted for his role in bribing a judge, but argued that Skilling applied to him, too. You won't be surprised to learn that the district court didn't buy that argument. [Freeland; Clarion-Ledger]

Documentary "Injustice" on Reelz tonight - PointOfLaw Forum

Doesn't it say something about media views of the civil justice system that the dishonest "Hot Coffee" ended up on HBO, while the pro-reform expose "Injustice," by Brian Kelly, is on Reelz? If you don't get the cable channel, you can watch the trailer. The movie covers the Dickie Scruggs and Milberg Weiss scandals, among other things; interviews in the Chamber-funded movie include John Beisner, Lester Brickman, and Philip Howard. Kelly himself says he is a victim of lawsuit abuse, when it cost him $80,000 to win a lawsuit against a tenant he evicted. [ILR; BLT]

Around the web, February 10 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • TRO against collection in Chevron Ecuador case. [AP/NYT]
  • Responses to Laurence Tribe (NYT) on the Obamacare lawsuits. [Yoo @ Ricochet; Epstein @ Ricochet; Adler @ Volokh; Tabarrok; Instapundit roundup]
  • Zach Scruggs has already served his time for his role in the Scruggs bribery scandal, but is arguing to undo his guilty plea. [LNL]
  • Putative consumer fraud class action against sugary Nutella spread over the standard "part of a healthy breakfast" language. [WLF; OL link roundup]
  • New York Times and Washington Post continue to lie about Citizens United; the Times editorial page is particularly bad about legal issues, refusing even to issue corrections. [Atlantic; Volokh]
  • More media bias on judicial confirmations. [Whelan]
  • Sara Wexler on the pending Brueswitz v. Wyeth Supreme Court case. [DJCLPP Sidebar]
  • My oral argument in the Ninth Circuit in the Bluetooth class action settlement case. [CCAF]
  • Japanese anime satirizes American legal system. [Siouxsie via OL]

Around the web, August 2 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • The irony: Jim Hood consulted with Dickie Scruggs about how to complain to WSJ about editorial noting how tight he was with Scruggs. [WSJ; Rossmiller]

  • Fumento digs under the Skilled Healthcare case, finds a disturbing railroading that never should've gone to the jury. The gigantic appeal bond required by California law means that Skilled Healthcare has no recourse. [Fumento]

  • Ken Feinberg to disclose compensation for administering BP fund. [Stier]
  • Fraud in billion-dollar Department of Agriculture class action settlement? "If there are only 39,697 African-American farmers grand total in the entire country, then how can over 86,000 of them claim discrimination at the hands of the USDA? Where did the other 46,303 come from?" [Pajamas Media via Overlawyered]
  • Detroit will start breaking out "judgment tax levy" on its tax bills to show expense of litigation. [Bob Dorigo Jones]
  • Ben Nelson is first Democratic senator to oppose Elena Kagan. [press release]
  • Energy bills could require US to participate in global carbon credit scheme, to expense of US economy and benefit of European countries with less strict environmental rules. [Murray @ Wash. Times]

The release of emails from the Scruggs Katrina Group's PR firm shows David Rossmiller getting under the skin of some corrupt lawyers and their PR flacks. See this must-read post from David Rossmiller: the quote in this post title ain't the half of it. It's great to see him back blogging.

Around the web, July 2 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Heather Mac Donald on stop-and-frisk. [NYT]
  • Dodd-Frank Act penalizes prudence. [Gelinas @ NY Post]
  • No charges for clippings-cutter P.L. Blake in Scruggs bribery scandal. [Clarion-Ledger and Clarion-Ledger via Olson]
  • S.D.N.Y. approves 25% fee on $225 megafund backdating class action settlement in Comverse Technology case. "While it may be that a lower percentage would also be sufficient, this court will not pretend that it has the expertise necessary to divine the ideal percentage." Um, except that's what Rule 23(h)(3) requires you to do. [PSERS objection via NYLJ via WSJ Law Blog]
  • Lawyers scramble for BP claim funds. [WSJ]
  • Toyota wins a consumer-loss class action in California federal court! But on a crank case defect recall, not the big alleged sudden acceleration case. [Jackson]
  • Philadelphia court throws out third-party payor Risperdal claim. [D&D Law]
  • DOJ whistleblower on the politically-motivated decision to drop a case against the Black Panthers. [Wash Times]
  • More on the SF cell-phone regulation. [Cal Biz Lit; earlier on POL]
  • More on Business Roundtable "buyers' remorse" for Obama agenda. [Strassel; earlier on POL]

  • Title IX follies. [Young]
  • The Jones Act saves jobs at a cost to consumers of about $1M to $4M/job, which, of course, means that it really costs jobs. [Juneau Empire]

A window into Scruggs's P.R. efforts - PointOfLaw Forum

Privilege logs introduced in insurance qui tam litigation provide glimpses of the intensive public relations efforts that Dickie Scruggs and his associates put into their litigation, including lavish attention to how they were being portrayed on blogs and in the Wall Street Journal. [YallPolitics]

More: Tom Freeland analyzes the significance of the new documents and also flags an immediate favorite: "Have the public relations firm work up a Wikipedia entry for the Rigsbys."

Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street -- State Government Relations - PointOfLaw Forum

In addition to contributing some $780 million to political candidates in federal campaigns over the last decade, lawyers have funneled $725 million to state-level campaigns. As noted in the Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street report:

Whereas trial lawyers' giving at the federal level tends to focus on Congress, at the state level the money is spread among all three branches of government. Because state judiciaries make most tort law--and have the power to invalidate statutory tort reforms as unconstitutional--the plaintiffs' bar has long concentrated on getting its allies onto the state bench . . . . State legislatures, as the source of statutory tort reform, are another arena of interest: any state legislator who tries to advance tort-reform legislation immediately becomes a target of the trial bar and can expect a very expensive reelection campaign. The litigation industry has even begun to turn its attention to the executive branch, since state attorneys general can farm out representation of the state's civil lawsuits to attorneys in private practice, and state treasurers and comptrollers, who control public-employee pension funds, can hire outside lawyers to initiate securities-fraud lawsuits . . . .

I'll briefly discuss how trial lawyers play in the political process for each branch of government; further detail can be found in the report itself, here.

  1. Judicial branch. Since tort law is common law governed by the courts, and many states elect their judges (39 in total, and 21 for the highest court), it is hardly surprising that the plaintiffs' bar focused much of its early political efforts on ensuring that its allies filled state supreme courts. In 1990, a trial lawyer "brazenly told Forbes magazine: '[U]ntil last year the plaintiff bar owned and controlled the Texas Supreme Court.' "

    What happened, also unsurprisingly, is that business interests figured out that they could pool their resources and influence judicial elections, too--setting off an arms race that grew increasingly unseemly, the worst excesses of which were exposed in last year's U.S. Supreme Court case, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. The need to campaign creates inherent conflicts of interest "between judges' role as neutral interpreters of the law and their status as elected officials with a need to fund-raise for campaigns," and as both Walter and I have noted here in the past, there's much to be said for the decision by the framers of the U.S. constitution to separate the federal judiciary from the electoral process.

    There are no easy solutions, however, and as Ted Frank noted here, much of the campaign for "judicial independence" is little more than a thinly veiled effort by George Soros and others on the left to achieve supremacy. As Ted notes, for these advocates, the "idea that judicial decision-making is beyond questioning by other branches of government . . . . somehow only appl[ies] to criticism of left-wing judges and judicial decisions." Tellingly, these same voices purportedly concerned about any criticism of the judiciary raised not a peep when President Obama upbraided Supreme Court justices for their Citizens United ruling--when the justices were seated before him, surrounded by hostile partisans, in the televised State of the Union address; instead, they were busy decrying the same judicial decision themselves.

  2. Legislative branch. The trial bar has long been giving to state legislative races, too. Historically, these efforts were largely defensive: "the trial-lawyer lobby largely contented itself with blocking legislative reforms, depending on state supreme courts to invalidate, on constitutional grounds, those that somehow achieved enactment." As previously suggested, those efforts are still ongoing (realized most recently in the Illinois supreme court's decision to overturn legislatively enacted medical-malpractice-law reforms, again, on dubious constitutional grounds). But of late, the trial bar has embarked on a more aggressive, affirmative legislative agenda, as they've sought to exploit recent electoral shifts that "produced or increased majorities of trial-lawyer-friendly Democrats in state legislatures."

    Among the trial bar's legislative successes are expansions of consumer-fraud statutes in Iowa and Washington; the creation of new qui tam statutes in New Mexico, New Jersey, and Oklahoma; the addition of new theories of non-economic damages in Iowa and Illinois; and an increase in statutory limits on damages recoverable against the state in Oregon. This legislation, as well as other trial-bar-backed efforts introduced but not passed into law, is summarized in the Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street report, as well as recent articles and reports by the American Tort Reform Association (see here and here (PDF)).

  3. Executive branch. Finally, it will come to no surprise to regular readers of this site--or those who have read Walter Olson's The Rule of Lawyers--that lawyers have also become increasingly active in working to influence state attorneys general and others with the capacity to engender litigation from the executive branch. Since Ron Motley and the now-incarcerated Dickie Scruggs pioneered this tactic in the multistate tobacco litigation, it has ballooned into a major part of the business model for the plaintiffs' bar.

    The week before we released the K Street report, this issue got significant media attention: The Washington Times (in an editorial) explored the trial bar's "pay to play" tactics with state AG's who hire outside contingency counsel; and The Wall Street Journal (in an in-depth investigative piece) looked at the securities-class-action bar's political contributions to various state and local politicians who influence or control public employee pension funds (among the biggest investors in the market, and thus the best able to control such lawsuits under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995). More detail is available in the full report, here.


(I'd like to apologize to our readers for not posting a summary of our Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street's state government relations section before this morning: I got preoccupied penning a lengthy response to a disingenuous hit job on the report, which was written by Joanne Doroshow of the trial-lawyer-allied Center for Justice and Democracy (there's lots of stuff on that outfit and its shoddy and misleading work in our archives, and here); stay tuned for my reply.

Anyway, notwithstanding that I'm just getting around to my state government relations posting, I still intend to wrap this up with a post about the trial-bar's federal government relations activities sometime later today, so stay tuned for that, too.)

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).

"Kings of Tort" reviewed - PointOfLaw Forum

Sid Salter of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reviews the new book by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson on the Scruggs and Minor scandals in Mississippi: "a cautionary tale about greed, hubris and how money greases the wheels of state politics."

A Lot Happens in 15 Years - PointOfLaw Forum

Take the case of former prosecutor and judge Bobby DeLaughter. Fifteen years ago, he successfully prosecuted Byron de la Beckwith in what is arguably one of the most important criminal cases in Mississippi history. Today, he was sentenced to 18 months for lying to the FBI in one the seemingly endless corruption investigations involving Dickie Scruggs. (see prior coverage here and here).

Around the web, September 25 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • State AGs (Connecticut's in particular) vs. businesses that try to close plants [Genova]
  • New York class-action firm Labaton Sucharow generous to Massachusetts politicians [Boston Globe]
  • Relying on analysis from some insurance consumer advocates can be hazardous indeed [RiskProf on Florida]
  • "Wyeth v. Levine Post-Script" [TortsProf]
  • How law schools promote or mispromote themselves is an important ethics issue [Steele, LEF]
  • Dickie Scruggs's private critique of federal judiciary bared in new suit? [Freeland and more citing YallPolitics]


Haley Barbour on the Mississippi tort bar's excesses - PointOfLaw Forum

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi spoke at the Heritage Foundation today on the state's successes with tort reform, an event hosted by former Attorney General Ed Meese. During the Q&A period, Meese asked the governor about the effects of the 2004 tort reforms on the state's trial bar. In response, Gov. Barbour alluded to the criminal prosecutions and convictions involving Mississippi's most prominent trial lawyer, Dickie Scruggs. It was an interesting exchange and a useful corrective to any schadenfreude legal reformers might occasionally indulge in.

BARBOUR: I don't think it was related to the tort reform, but as you know, some of the more prominent plaintiffs' lawyers in my state got into trouble. ...

I hate it. It's bad for the court system, it's bad for everybody. One of the things I really believe is, the public has to think the legal system is on the up and up. I mean, that's just really, really important.

Once in my career, I was the deputy chairman of the International Democrat Union, which despite its name - Democrat and Union - is the organization of conservative parties of the world that President Reagan started with Mrs. Thatcher and Chancellor Kohl. And I was struck by how much people in other parts of the world realized the importance of the rule of law in America. And it is not that way everywhere. There are advanced countries that are very prosperous that don't have nearly the confidence, faith and commitment to the rule of law that we do.

And for us, an advantage for us is the little guy generally believes that the court system is on the up and up.

All of sudden we get judges getting convicted of taking bribes and lawyers, good lawyers - they may have been plaintiffs' lawyers and they may be on the other side from me, and politically and everything else - but they're good lawyers. To me it's sad, 'cause it's bad for what we all ultimately want in America, and we do want the rule of law, and we want a system that let's us progress.

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