Before his career ended in a federal jail cell following his conviction in a judicial corruption scheme, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs changed the public-private relationships between trial lawyers and state attorneys general nationwide, according to a report issued this week by the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
The annual report, “Trial Lawyers Inc.: A Report on the Alliance Between State AGs and the Plaintiffs’ Bar 2011,” identifies the 1994 national tobacco lawsuit directed by Scruggs and then Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore as the foundation of the use of percentage based contingency fees for government contracts rather than billable hours for multi-million dollar claims. But the report’s attention on Mississippi is not merely historical, it also singles out current Attorney General Jim Hood as part of the “Trial Lawyers Inc. Leadership Team” for being “among the friendliest to the plaintiffs’ bar’s litigation agenda.” Both Republican and Democratic attorneys general from around the country are criticized in the publication.
In his opening to the report, the Center for Legal Policy Director James R. Copland writes, “State AGs make possible the payment of windfall fees to their allies in the plaintiffs’ bar, whose lawyers in turn gratefully fill the officials’ campaign coffers with a share of their easily obtained cash….To subsidize their ambition, many state attorneys general have embraced the plaintiffs’ bar over the past two decades in a symbiotic relationship that has enriched each at the expense of the general public and the rule of law.”