Dickie Scruggs – Fighting a Four Front Legal War For Survival

As details of his personal, professional and financial dealings become more and more public, we now can calculate that Dickie Scruggs is fighting a four front legal war for life as he knows it.

Front 1 – Federal Indictment for Bribery
The most obvious and pressing fight he has on his hands is the federal indictment. It would seem that his former lawyer and current co-counsel (Timothy Balducci) on fee dispute matters is cooperating with the Feds. With a trial scheduled in January, we could know the results of this by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. If he loses this fight, it’s “game over”.

Front 2 – Criminal Contempt Fight Alabama/State Farm
This fight with Judge Acker may not be as serious (in terms of criminal penalty) as the bribery charges, but it could have other serious collateral damage. By allegedly defying a federal judge’s order to return documents to the court in the State Farm litigation, Scruggs could have a whole host of penalties assessed if found guilty. Most curious about this fight is that it will likely involve Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, to whom Scruggs is a major donor. Hood declared that Scruggs was a “confidential informant” and attempted to provide Scruggs with a legal safe harbor for defying the order. Hood was pursuing criminal charges against State Farm simultaneously to Scruggs’ civil claims. The documents were copies of claims made by the Rigsby sisters, whom Scruggs has called whistleblowers. According to media reports and testimony, Scruggs is now paying the Rigsby sisters $150K/year as consultants.

Two very interesting facts have come out this week on this front. First, a federal magistrate judge has ruled that Dickie and Zach Scruggs must answer questions about their handling of those documents. Essentially, the court has made some provisions that can pierce attorney client privilege in this particular instance. Second, a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against longtime Scruggs benefactor and SKG moneyman David Nutt and his firm Nutt & McAlister. The suit alleges, in addition to all sorts of personal, professional and sexual malfeasance, that Nutt’s firm did not comply with Judge Acker’s order either, opting instead to make copies of those documents. This may simply draw more people into the fray on this particular topic.

Front 3 – Fee Dispute case with Jones Funderberg
This is really the fight that started it all. But for this lawsuit and the bribery allegations that stemmed from it, the media would not be embroiled in this 20 year tale of backwoods nasty politics and shady legal dealings. The truth is that this is not a major fight for Scruggs. His worst case scenario here that it might cost him some money. It seems to have certainly cemented the Scruggs Firm status as outsiders on the ongoing Katrina Litigation.

Front 4 – FBI’s expanding investigation into his prior legal matters
Mississippi’s top journalist and investigative reporter, Jerry Mitchell, has started to sink his teeth into the Scruggs mess (which is bad news for Scruggs in and of itself). On Sunday, he reports that the FBI is investigating an old fee dispute case in Hinds County. It is unclear what will come of this or other subsequent investigations, but Scruggs & Company sure can’t like to see the Feds increasing the number of fronts he is already committed to fight.

There is actually a fifth front . . . the public relations/image/political front. This is probably the one that I’m guessing is irking Scruggs & Company the most right now. In fact, it may have even claimed its first victim in the form of former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore backing down from a US Senate Run, though these legal entanglements of his friend and collaborator were not cited in his decision. To have now generated this kind of unwanted media scrutiny in all of the seemingly shady business behind the tobacco and asbestos and now Katrina fights has to hurt Scruggs’ carefully crafted image of the people’s champion. How can Scruggs explain having decade long fee disputes with lawyers who had contracts/agreements in place while at the same time promising P.L. Blake $50,000,000 for services neither Scruggs nor Blake can quantify and for which there is no written agreement? There will be a whole host of other tough questions that Scruggs will be able to do little more than hope they go away.

Win or lose, this ordeal I believe will forever damage Scruggs’ credibility and those with who he has surrounded himself with. Most people I have talked to believe that these four fronts are the beginning and not the end. Many more people whose names we all recognize will have their own legal battles to be fighting in this same war very soon.