Could rulings on Minor, other appeals telegraph DeLaughter’s fate

If a federal appeals court reverses the convictions of former lawyer Paul Minor and others, it could help Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter fight charges he participated in a bribery scheme with former lawyer Dickie Scruggs.

“If it’s a favorable outcome for Paul Minor, it’s good news for Judge DeLaughter and maybe very good news,” said Matt Steffey, professor at Mississippi College School of Law.

At the same time, Steffey said if the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds those convictions, “then things look more grim for Judge DeLaughter.”

DeLaughter, who is seeking to get his corruption charges dismissed, goes on trial Aug. 17 in federal court in Oxford. He has maintained his innocence and said he followed the law in ruling in favor of Scruggs in a legal-fees dispute.

Scruggs pleaded guilty in this and an unrelated bribery case and is serving seven years in prison.

DeLaughter has been suspended from the bench since March 2008 while the state Judicial Performance Commission investigates complaints against him.

The issue is whether federal prosecutors have overreached in using the bribery statute.

In 2007, a federal jury in Mississippi convicted Minor and two former Mississippi Gulf Coast judges – Wes Teel and John Whitfield – of corruption because Minor had helped guarantee or pay off campaign loans of the judges who heard some of his cases.

Jerry Mitchell
Clarion Ledger