Other times, when I read stories like this, I get all fired up again.
Dickie Scruggs, bribing a judge for $50k, over a fee dispute with a lawyer in his "group," over sharing a $26.5 million fee?
I find these allegations shocking, if true. The indictment is quite a read, you can review it here.
There are several layers to this story.
First, what made Scruggs think he could bribe this judge for $50k? Has this been done in the past? Is this normal business practice out there? Can you imagine anyone here in South Florida being caught up in something like this?
Second, how shortsighted to end a legendary career, having made many many millions, because you couldn't work out a deal with a fellow lawyer over what is in the end a modest fee? I've seen this countless times. I don't know whether it's ego, greed, power, control, or simply money, but so many times lawyers take shortsighted positions that inure to no one's benefit, preferring to fight over a fee or for control rather than work out an acceptable deal for the greater good.
As we all know, lawsuits frequently have unintended consequences. Could anyone have predicted that fighting over a small portion of a fee in a case in which everyone made out pretty good would result in this?
Judge Henry Lackey gives his perspective on the alleged bribe, via LawBlog:
So I guess Scruggs is taking the position Balducci did this all on his own?
In an interview recounting the episode, Judge Henry Lackey said the initial overture came from another lawyer he knew, Tim Balducci of New Albany, Miss. “My first thought was: What kind of character flaw has he discovered in me that would lead him to think that I would do something like this?” said the judge, 73 years old. “I was furious. I mean, this strikes at the heart of our judicial system.”
In his interview, Judge Lackey said Balducci first approached him in March suggesting a bribe. The judge, who sits on a court that covers several counties in Mississippi, said he didn’t contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office because he considered himself friendly with Balducci and feared the ramifications.
“I worried what would become of this young man, his wife, his children,” said Judge Lackey. “He was one of the brightest legal stars on the horizon that I’d come across, and I worried a great deal about the consequences.”
After a few days, he felt he “had to do something” and contacted federal prosecutors in Oxford, Judge Lackey said. Eventually, he agreed to participate in an operation to help them build their case. “I felt like my reputation was being denigrated, so I told them I’d be happy to wear a wire,” he said.
Prosecutors instead equipped his office with audio and video-recording equipment, he said. The indictment cites several telephone calls and meetings in Judge Lackey’s office with Balducci in which, prosecutors say, details of the bribe were mentioned and money was given to the judge.
Judge Lackey said he had met Scruggs only once, at a seminar. “I look forward to testifying at trial,” he said.
Balducci didn’t return calls seeking comment on the case yesterday. Scruggs’s attorney, John Keker, said: “I find it remarkable that this high-minded government witness is talking to the national media, and it makes me wonder if he is interested in notoriety rather than seeing that justice is done. I’ll say this — he sure as hell didn’t get bribed by Dick Scruggs or anyone else in his law firm.”