Sentencing Doesn’t End Scruggs’s Legal Woes

Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the high-profile plaintiffs lawyer who pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to bribe a Mississippi judge, will likely learn his fate Friday, when he is scheduled to be sentenced for his crime.

But the sentencing won’t necessarily put an end to the legal woes of Mr. Scruggs, 62 years old, who gained wealth and notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s in massive litigation against the tobacco and asbestos industries.

In April, a judge entered a judgment against Mr. Scruggs and other members of the former Scruggs Katrina Group — a group of lawyers pursuing insurance recoveries for property owners. The judge also granted “reasonable attorney fees” to the plaintiff, a law firm based in Jackson, Miss. A hearing on what Mr. Scruggs and his former colleagues will ultimately owe is slated for November.

And the possibility of trouble in a separate judicial-corruption case still looms over Mr. Scruggs. In 2006, Mr. Scruggs hired a Booneville, Miss., lawyer named Joey Langston to step into a separate legal-fee dispute, this one involving asbestos litigation that dated to the 1980s. In January, Mr. Langston agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to improperly influence the state court judge in that case. In court, Mr. Langston acknowledged the prosecutors’ allegations that Mr. Scruggs told Mr. Langston to let the judge know that if he ruled in his favor Mr. Scruggs would pass his name along for consideration regarding a federal judgeship. In January, Mr. Scruggs’s lawyer said, “Dickie Scruggs did not try to improperly influence” the judge.

Mr. Scruggs hasn’t been indicted in that case. But in the March hearing in which Mr. Scruggs pleaded guilty, a prosecutor, Thomas Dawson, hinted that Mr. Scruggs might not have seen the last of it. “I want to make it painfully clear that the investigation with respect to the…matter that is currently under investigation — that this plea agreement and this plea has no effect with respect to any charging decision or subsequent prosecution with respect to that case.” A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Oxford, Miss., didn’t return a call for comment.

Wall Street Journal
6/23/8