Scruggs gets extra month before trial

Though the deadline for discovery will stay the same, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers has pushed the bribery trial of prominent trial lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, back more than a month.

On Friday, Biggers claimed that Scruggs’ defense team did not make a convincing argument to stay proceedings based on discovery issues, though he agreed that it should be allowed to employ experts to look over the evidence against Scruggs.

“(T)he defendants advise the court that they may employ experts to examine the electronic surveillance evidence and the photographic evidence, and also state that they may file extensive motions asking for suppression of the searches and the Title III wire taps, motions to dismiss the indictment, and other discovery motions,” the order says.

The trial of Scruggs and his three co-defendants (son Zach and attorney Sidney Backstrom of the Scruggs Law Firm and former state Auditor Steven Patterson of Balducci and Patterson) will be moved from Jan. 22, 2008, to Feb. 25.

Timothy Balducci, the fifth charged in last month’s indictment, pleaded guilty to a count of bribery and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

The indictment said the five conspired to bribe Lafayette Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $40,000 to compel arbitration in a $26.5 million attorneys fees suit.

Scruggs has long had ties to the Attorney General’s Office in Mississippi. His firm earned $1.4 billion when it was hired by former Attorney General Mike Moore to negotiate the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in the late 1990s.

He has been a campaign contributor to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, as has Balducci and Backstrom.

Legal Newsline