Have Greed And Egomania Finally Caught Up To Dickie Scruggs?

Scruggs doesn’t necessarily follow the same rules as other lawyers. In the tobacco litigation, he helped a former paralegal for a Kentucky law firm representing Brown & Williamson to publicize documents the paralegal had stolen while working for the firm. Despite a court order requiring return of the documents, they turned up–anonymously–on Capitol Hill and in some news outlets. The paralegal then ended up in a house Scruggs’ law firm purchased in Pascagoula, Mississippi, got a “job” at the Scruggs law firm, and had a couple auto loans co-signed by the law firm.

If that sounds to you like Scruggs–who proceeded to make a huge fortune off tobacco litigation–paid the fellow off, well, you’re entitled to your opinion. Scruggs would say there’s no connection and he did nothing illegal or unethical. The house and the cars–why those were just “loans.”

Then, in later litigation involving victims of Hurricane Katrina, Scruggs tried to turn them into victims of insurers. Despite the fact Scruggs’ clients hadn’t purchased expensive flood insurance, Scruggs argued, among other things, that the insurers should nonetheless reimburse them for flood damage because it was really all caused by wind blowing the water into their homes, and they were insured against wind damage. Arguments like that, of course, are why most people dislike trial lawyers.

Along the way in the Katrina litigation, some ladies who worked for State Farm took some of State Farm’s documents and, again, despite court orders to the contrary, those documents made there way to the public. Scruggs’ fingerprints were all over the revelation, and a federal judge recommended he be prosecuted for criminal contempt.

For his part, Scruggs would probably tell you he’s a hero. He stands up to “the man” for the “little guy” and he fights hard to represent people who other lawyers would simply ignore.

Most heroes, however, don’t earn millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions from their heroics. One might well argue that Scruggs is motivated primarily by greed, with a pretty good dose of megolamania thrown in. And, some lawyers would argue, his success has depended heavily on his willingness to break the rules, or to play outside the rules.

X Curmudgeon