Famed Trial Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Orchestrate a Bribe of a Judge

11/17/2008 | Legal Malpractice

Famed trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs has pleaded guilty to attempting to orchestrate a bribe of a judge.  According to news articles Scruggs was attempting to obtain a favorable ruling in a fee dispute with some other lawyers arising out of bad faith insurance lawsuits against State Farm related to the Katrina diaster. The New York Times wrote an in depth article about the fee dispute issue when Scrugss was first indicted.

In his first significant case, Scruggs represented shipyard workers who had been exposed to asbestos. Scruggs earned millions from asbestos litigation. But it was his assault on Big Tobacco in the 1990s that made him famous. Scruggs orchestrated one of the largest civil settlements in American history, winning nearly $250 billion from the industry. The fees awarded to the plaintiffs' lawyers came to more than $13 billion. Scruggs' share of the pot was at the very least in the hundreds of millions.

There are cases that make lawyers' careers, but this was something more. It made Scruggs a star in the legal world and a character in "The Insider," a 1999 movie about the tobacco litigation.

The Mississippi bar association has indicated it will immediately suspend Scrugs' license to practice law.  And, while he has yet to be sentenced, prison is certainly a possibility.

This is certainly a disturbing development and, once again, paints a picture of personal injury lawyers as nothing more than money chasing scoundrels.

This event does nothing to change what I know to be true: most lawyers are hard working, honest people that take seriously their oath to place their client's interests ahead of their own.  

Hans Poppe