EDITORIAL:Justice trumps arrogance

The federal judiciary and its prosecutors delivered a humiliating blow on Friday to the enemies of integrity in the Mississippi state judiciary.

The sentencing of famed plaintiffs’ attorney Richard Scruggs and his former law firm associate, Sidney Backstrom, on charges of attempting to bribe a state circuit court judge, reverberates among all who think they can get away with anything because they are above the law.

Earlier, in a separate case but tied to the Scruggs firm, noted Booneville attorney Joey Langston pled guilty in a case involving attempting to illegally influence Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter of Jackson. That case also involves former District Attorney Ed Peters.

Former state Auditor Steve Patterson, who worked for the Balducci firm, has pleaded guilty in relation to the Scruggs conspiracy involving Judge Lackey.

Langston and Patterson both are cooperating with federal investigators.

Langston pleaded guilty to trying to influence DeLaughter in an asbestos lawsuit fee case by promising that Scruggs could help DeLaughter get appointed to a federal judgeship with the help of Republican former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, Scruggs’ brother-in-law. Lott abruptly and unexpectedly resigned from the Senate – where he had served for 19 years – only days before the indictments against Scruggs and others were made known in late 2007. Lott has not been indicted.

This sordid web of deceit apparently is far from being fully untangled, but what’s been revealed so far is enough to make Mississippians wonder why smart, successful people become consumed by greed and deluded by a sense of invincible power.

Scruggs, by consensus, was among the most famous trial lawyers in the world. He won a settlement with Big Tobacco for the state of Mississippi that made him, by all accounts and appearances, wealthy almost beyond belief.

Dickie Scruggs, Zack Scruggs, Sid Backstrom, Steve Patterson, Joey Langston, and Tim Balducci failed themselves, their families, their communities, their friends, their innocent colleagues, and the legal profession.

But they got caught, the single possibility that apparently never entered their minds or touched their consciences.

NE MS Daily Journal
6/30/8