Circuit Court Judge Judge Henry L. Lackey of Calhoun City will receive the 2008 Chief Justice Award, the court’s highest honor, on Saturday at an awards presentation that concludes the Mississippi Bar’s annual convention in Destin, Fla.
“The judiciary of our state is forever grateful to Judge Lackey for his dedication to fairness and exemplary behavior in the legal profession,” Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. said. “Judge Lackey’s professional response in promptly reporting severe lawyer misconduct exemplifies the principles of honesty that all judges must practice routinely, but which are seldom publicly reported.”
An attorney who considered Lackey a friend and mentor approached the judge on Scruggs’ behalf in March 2007, asking that Lackey help Scruggs with a case. Troubled by the unethical private conversation about a case pending before him, Lackey alerted federal authorities.
He agreed to wear a wire and tape future conversations with the attorney, Timothy Balducci. Coached by federal authorities, Lackey asked for $40,000 to give Scruggs the ruling he wanted in a legal-fee dispute with a Jackson attorney.
Balducci agreed to cooperate after agents confronted him with the evidence. Scruggs, his son, Zach Scruggs, and Sidney Backstrom – all attorneys at the Scruggs Law Firm in Oxford – eventually pleaded guilty in the case. All three are about to go to prison.
The judicial bribery investigation also led to guilty pleas from high-profile Booneville attorney Joey Langston and former state Auditor Steve Patterson, who worked with Balducci’s firm. Balducci, Langston and Patterson agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.
Lackey has served in the legal profession for 42 years. Gov. Kirk Fordice in 1993 appointed Lackey to fill a vacancy as judge in the Third Circuit District of Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties.