Law360, New York (January 12, 2010) — From paying plaintiffs illegal kickbacks to running massive Ponzi schemes, many lawyers have found themselves in the hot seat in recent years, wreaking havoc on their law firms and seeing their names splashed across the front pages.
The scandals rocked some law firms to their core, forcing them to dissolve. Others recovered, though the memory of scandal still can haunt lawyers left behind. More than one prominent attorney ended up in jail.
As a rollercoaster decade for U.S. law firms comes to a close, Law360 takes a look at some of the biggest scandals in the industry, the stuff of watercooler gossip, TV movies and your favorite John Grisham novel.
Dickie Scruggs Doing Time for Bribery Attempt
Known for his role in tobacco industry litigation in the 1990s, Mississippi plaintiffs lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs pled guilty to charges of attempted bribery not once but twice in the last half of the decade.
In 2007, he was among five people indicted for attempting to bribe a Mississippi state court Judge Henry Lackey, who was overseeing an attorneys’ fee dispute between Scruggs and another attorney he worked with in insurance litigation over Hurricane Katrina.
He was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the plot, and while in prison, pled guilty to an additional bribery charge for offering to help a different Mississippi state court judge get a federal bench appointment.
Scruggs, the brother-in-law of former Republican Sen. Trent Lott, pled guilty in February 2009 to allegations that he offered to finagle the appointment for Judge Bobby DeLaughter if the judge gave him a favorable ruling in an asbestos case.
He was ordered to serve seven years in prison for the offense, to be served concurrently with his existing five-year sentence.
DeLaughter, who allegedly leaked information about the case to one of the attorneys on Scruggs’ team in the asbestos litigation, pled guilty in July 2009 to obstruction of justice in exchange for an 18-month prison sentence.