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James Crockett’s new book, a look at Scruggs, DeLaughter and the gang: Power Greed Hubris

University Press of Mississippi has a new look out at the Minor – Scruggs – DeLaughter bribery cases, titled Power Greed Hubris: Judicial Bribery in Mississippi.  This one is by James R. Crockett, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi and adjunct professor of accountancy at the University of Mississippi. He wrote Hands in the Till: Embezzlement of Public Monies in Mississippi and Operation Pretense: The FBI’s Sting on County Corruption in Mississippi. This amounts to a trilogy of Mississippi corruption.  I’ve read a substantial part of Hands in the Till.

The new one has a decided perspective:  That these folks were guilty of the bribery schemes for which they entered guilty pleas or were convicted.  I haven’t read more than jacket copy and a couple of places inside; here’s what U. Press says about it:

From 2003 to 2009 sensational judicial bribery scandals rocked Mississippi’s legal system. Famed trial lawyers Paul Minor and Richard (Dickie) Scruggs and renowned judge and former prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter proved to be the nexus of these scandals. Seven attorneys and a former state auditor were alleged to have attempted to bribe or to have actually bribed five state judges to rule in favor of Minor and Scruggs in several lawsuits. This is the story of how federal authorities, following up on information provided by a bank examiner and a judge who could not be bribed, toppled Minor, Scruggs, and their enablers in what was exposed as the most significant legal scandal of twenty-first-century Mississippi.

James R. Crockett details the convoluted schemes that eventually put three of the judges, six of the attorneys, and the former auditor in federal prison. All of the men involved were successful professionals and three of them, Minor, Scruggs, and fellow attorney Joey Langston, were exceptionally wealthy. The stories involve power, greed, but most of all hubris. The culprits rationalized abominable choices and illicit actions to influence judicial decisions. The crimes came to light in those six years, but some crimes were committed before that. These men put themselves above the law and produced the perfect storm of bribery that ended in disgrace.

The tales Crockett relates about these scandals and the actions of Paul Minor and Richard Scruggs are almost unbelievable. Individuals willingly became their minions in power plays designed to distort the very rule of law that most of them had sworn to uphold.

12 comments to James Crockett’s new book, a look at Scruggs, DeLaughter and the gang: Power Greed Hubris

  • Well, the premise sounds promising.

  • WantedToBeALawyer

    From what I’ve followed on this blog, the University Press blurb seems to nail it.

    I always thought you should’ve written that book, NMC (minus the Minor story, but add the Peters story).

  • NMC

    The Minor story is part of the picture, but the Jackson stuff is an essential story that needs to be told. I still have a book in my head and would hope to get to it. Looking forward to this one.

  • I downloaded it but it seems pretty pricey for what you get.

  • NMC

    I’ve read about a third of it. The part about the Minor / Diaz trials is very informative, but written in a flat just-the-facts m’am tone (except for occasional anger at journalists who wrote superficially about the case). The first chapter about Scruggs verges on the incoherent, although there are a couple of interesting tidbits.

    Nowhere does he attempt anything like a standard narrative (e.g. “This happened, then this happened”). In the trial section, that worked fine, because the sequence of events in the trial gave him a structure– “This witness said this, was cross-examined about that, and the judge refused to allow testimony about thus-and-such.” But the chapter on Scruggs jumps around a lot.

    One fact disclosed therein: Scruggs was fired as an associate at “William Winter’s law firm” for threatening a partner after the partner had spoken disrespectfully to Scruggs in a meeting with a client. That’s the sum of the facts disclosed, and I can surely tell there’s more to it than that.

    I’m enjoying it, but have an excessive interest in the topic. So far, its certainly the best account yet, although I can’t believe it will be as vivid as the parts clearly written by Tom Dawson in the Dawson Lange book. Wilkie obviously has them all beat on writing and not so much on getting the story right.

  • Does he mention where the prosecution irrelevantly “outed” Diaz’s mistress, who was fired from her job at MC Law the same day?

  • Jim

    From the original post I was thinking this should be worth reading, but the comments leave me questioning that decision. If one of the worthwhile “facts’ is the “tidbit” about being an associate at Winter’s law firm – that was an early disclosure in Zeus (Wilkie), which I just recently finally decided should be read.

    Am interested in Anderson’s question, although I always thought the prosecution was being kind by only outing “one” of Diaz’s mistresses. Guess the trial needed to move along and didn’t have time to disclose all of them.

  • He describes her testimony, and notes the “outing.” The description of her testimony is relatively clinical, stating that Diaz “contacted her in 2001 about doing research and possibly writing a brief for Minor in a case the supreme court was to hear.” He states that she went with Diaz to pick up Minor at the airport to talk about the case, and that Minor hired her. She said “Diaz never discussed the case with her and he never voted on the case….”

    The author points other instances that I’d call prosecutor’s sleazy tactics in the trials of the Minor/Diaz cases; someone who read this account without having heard about the case previously might not put this at the top.

    If Dunn Lampton’s handling of the Diaz tax information wasn’t illegal, it damn well ought to be.

  • NMC

    Well, a hundred pages in, I’d say its a workman-like account of the Minor trials (which means the best available) and a very confusing (and even confused) attempt to tell the story of the Scruggs cases, to a degree I find somewhat surprising.

  • WatedToBeALawyer

    For anyone who’s interested, here is a link to an interview with the author in today’s Clarion Ledger.

  • The cutline refers to it as the author’s third “novel.”

  • Ben

    I thank all y’all for preserving my reading time.

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