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Seale, Dawson, and the Miss. Bus Journal, round…uh… I think 3

The Mississippi Business Journal reporter, after reading Steve Seale’s comment that a reporter should call-before-he-writes, the reporter called Seale, and then wrote about the conversation:

Jackson Attorney Steve Seale was in the audience yesterday when Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, the authors of “Kings of Tort”, talked about their new book at the Stennis Capitol Press Corps luncheon.

As Magnolia Marketplace reported here, Seale had some pretty strong words for Dawson, who was the lead prosecutor in the judicial bribery cases that led to Dickie Scruggs being hauled off to prison.

Anyway, Seale was a little upset because I didn’t talk to him afterward to get a completely clear picture of what he meant before I posted the original entry. Fair enough.

So after a 15-minute phone conversation with Seale, here’s what we know:

Seale said he has no problem with Dawson writing a book about the Scruggs cases per se. The issue is Dawson profiting from work he performed while he was a federal prosecutor. (Dawson has since retired from the post.)

“I think a prosecutor should be held to a higher standard,” Seale said.

The client of a U.S. attorney is the general public, Seale said, and any profit gleaned from serving that client should come with the client’s permission.

For his part, Dawson writes in the Reading Notes and Acknowledgements section of “Kings of Tort”: “Bar associations recognize the absurdity of obtaining permission of all citizens of the country in releasing case information, and generally leave it to the author to use common sense.”

Dawson also said that he adhered to Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure regarding nondisclosure of matters before a grand jury. “Any reference to grand jury testimony is derived from transcripts publicly filed by criminal defendants in their own motions and responses,” Dawson writes. He goes on to write that he did not divulge any federal prosecutor trade secrets, and chose not to quote directly in the book Department of Justice officials or defense lawyers.

Apparently feeling that the reporter still wasn’t getting his point, Seale wrote in comments:

Clay, with all due respect, you again omitted some critical parts of our conversation wherein I explained in detail the reasons for my opinion that a prosecutor (or former prosecutor) should not profit by writing about facts and information gained only due to his position as a prosecutor. Prosecutors have a special status and power in the criminal justice system. They have access to the power of a subpoena and the prospect of sanctions by a court whereby they can compel the testimony of witnesses and obtain documents and other evidence. The threat of a criminal prosecution and punishment including incarceration are powers that regular folks like us don’t have. My point was and is that Mr. Dawson shouldn’t profit from the work he did in this special status in our criminal justice system on behalf of his “client” without his client’s permission. Mr. Dawson states in his book that his client was “… the United States and the public at large.” He recognizes that prosecutor’s owe ” … a duty of confidentiality to his or her client” but cites us to the recognition by bar associations that it would be “absurd” to seek the public’s permission to reveal matters which would otherwise be confidential. I don’t doubt, as I said when I asked the question during his remarks, that Mr. Dawson followed the “rules” the government, the courts and bar associations recognize with respect to writing a book. But, I don’t think it’s “absurd” for his client (us/the public) to expect that prosecutors with such special powers will not profit by writing books about what they learn in their work due in large part to that power they have in that special status. Writing books about their cases is not what I think we expect from prosecutors … especially if that involves making a profit by doing so. We expect prosecutors in the conduct of their work to be motivated by serving the public’s interest in a fair and impartial justice system. There may be no rule, law or ethical or professional practice which requires Mr. Dawson to obtain our permission to profit from his work by writing a book about it, and it may be “absurd” to think that he could obtain it if he tried. But, he should employ some of the “common sense” he refers to in the book and, if he is truly interested in furthering the cause of justice by having a clear record on these issues available to the public, he should donate the profits he may derive from this book to some entity that will serve the public’s interest and use those funds to promote the cause of justice.

Meanwhile, in our own comments, Anderson is possibly contemplating taking up a collection to purchase a carriage return for Seale’s keyboard.

h/t to Steve Seale in (drum roll) comments.

46 comments to Seale, Dawson, and the Miss. Bus Journal, round…uh… I think 3

  • Anderson

    I think you were supposed to telephone Mr. Seale before posting his remarks, so that he could tell you where the paragraph breaks go.

  • Anderson

    … Re: Mr. Seale’s substantive point, it would be helpful to have some citation to authority.

    Anyone know whether the archetypal “prosecutor who wrote a book,” Vincent Bugliosi, kept the royalties from Helter Skelter? A little googling discloses no answer either way, but I rather suspect that he (and his co-author) did.

  • Ben

    Methinks Seale doth protest too much ….

  • What'sUp

    IF Mr. Seale keeps pressing that his ‘bottom line’ point is that Mr. Dawson should not profit from his knowledge gained while he was paid out of the public trough, then what, pray tell, is the difference for Mr. Seale’s boss who has been eating out of the public trough for decades and supposedly was at the time HIS (Sen. Lott’s) book was published.

    What am I missing here ?
    Why did the Lange/Dawson book ‘get under his craw’ so much as to make himself appear so forgetful about his boss’ book ?
    Did it ‘hit too close to home’ ?

    What’s Up

  • Mike

    I am certain that I haven’t a clue about  much of what is flying around in these posts, but the point that Mr Seales’ substantive comments raise is at least worth debating. 
    The abuse of power argument has some merit.  For example, could a prosecutor doing a stint in the US Attorney’s office, involved in the investigation concerning say, Tiger Woods, be more likely to use his subpoena power to gather facts for a big payday book?  Admittedly, the facts could not likely be used in the book unless they became public, as in following indictment, which raises another concern. 
    I do not question Mr Dawson’s service or motives in his investigation and prosecutions in the Scruggs matter.  However, the public service his book provides could be performed well by reporters, writers and bloggers, such as Mr. Taggart, including interviews with mr dawson’s account.
    Should there be some restriction on prosecutors profiting from sensational stories that he or she can shape by their prosecutional decisions?  It’s worth discussing.      

  • Tobias

    Also, Mr. Seale worked in government and now he uses his knowledge and experience to be a lobbyist. Is that wrong, as well? I think not, but then I think it’s ok to write a book about your previous work and he apparently does not.

  • Fishwater

    Anyone know how the signing event went at the LaFont Inn in Pascagoula today?

  • chmba

    Ben, Methink you are exactly right. Seale protesteth too much! Wonder if he is afraid of a further Dawson writing exercise??

  • This is obviously a personal thing with Mr. Seale. Bottom line, he didn’t want the book written-and he sure didn’t want Dawson doing it.

    But – and this is the thing he’s so obviously frustated about .. he doesn’t want it to be that simple.. and he doesn’t want reporters reporting it simply.

    He wants to explain it the way he wants to explain it – which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense quite frankly. He’s coming across (at least verbally) nervous.

    I do agree there may be an argument for (and against) a prosector writing and profiting from a book. The issue – haven’t seen really good arguments yet on either side.

  • Anderson

    … I take it that Owen’s citation to the Northside Sun raised some copyright worries? Fair enough.

  • ampal

    seale needs to learn how to hit enter. this dawson fellow and lange wrote about some of the internal and private dealings with suspects and defendants. i again wonder if they got justice department approval/review like that fbi agent, gary aldrich.

  • bellesouth

    You do have to wonder. Dawson is writing about Scruggs and how his greed led to his downfall on one hand but that is exactly what enticed Dawson to write his book — greed.

  • Hatfield

    Mr. Seale did write a letter to the judge for Zac Scruggs. There has to be a connection with the Scruggs family. Why would he care who wrote a book about the Scruggs case.

    I do not see a problem since Dawson retired from his post. Seems to me as long as he followed thew laws about what he can and can not disclose there is no problem.

    Some readers would want to know the story from the prosecutors side of the case.

  • WaySouth

    Speaking of Tiger Woods, I find it odd that none of the ten or so women identified as having extramarital sex with Tiger are Asian!

    You would think that Tiger coming from an Asian racial background would have at least had sex with one or two Asian gals.

    Is it possible that a person can have racist feelings toward those of his own race?

    WS

  • Researcher

    Don’t criticize him because he wrote a book, but because he wrote this book.
    Dawson didn’t quit and immediately write a well-sourced and documented book with insights about the cases. He quit and immediately co-wrote a poorly-sourced book with a political blogger.
    The question for Dawson is that with all these notorious plaintiffs attorneys in position to deal, how is it that the only cases pursued were fee disputes between plaintiffs lawyers and plaintiffs lawyers contacts with judges? Did they investigate the underlying cases and settlements and find nothing or did they intentionally not investigate those cases because then they might have to also consider the conduct of corporate defense attorneys and their interactions with judges?

  • So does Seale think Generals and Presidents should get permission from the United States before they write memoirs or books about their experiences?

  • I just knew Alma C. Evans would pup up again. Never fear, she will always be here defending Scruggs and the rest of his sordid gang.

  • Mr. Seale, I just have one question for you.

    Before his resignation, Did Mr. Lott have a meeting with the A.G over any alleged interference in the Scruggs investigation and if so, did such meeting have anything to do with his resignation?

  • Anderson

    WaySouth, could you change your moniker to impugn some other part of the country? That I don’t live in?

    Thanks in advance!

  • bellesouth

    And as always, Kingfish is here to impugn anyone associated with anyone he doesn’t like. And if you are going to out someone’s name posting here, then you should really do it under your real name and not anonymously, coward, uh I mean Kingfish.

    So, smartass, why do you think Dawson wasted his time writing this sordid book?

  • Anderson

    And if you are going to out someone’s name posting here, then you should really do it under your real name and not anonymously, coward, uh I mean Kingfish.

    Indeed. I would think you should out people on your own damn blog, not on someone else’s.

  • NotZachScruggs

    Should Tiger Woods hire Mr. Seale to speak to the press on his behalf? No network or cable reporter has “two hour sound bites”!

  • Gee Bellesouth, you sure didn’t mind outing yourself on the book reviews on Kings of Tort on Amazon.com where you wrote a review under your own name and called yourself Bellesouth.

    Why shouldn’t prosecutors write books after they are retired? No one seems to mind it when President’s, Generals, Secretaries of State, Attorney Generals, and other politicians do. Would Bellesouth be just as outraged if Jim Hood wrote a book about some of his prosecutions? Would Seale be as outraged if Lott wrote some candid memoirs about his years in the Senate? The only time I’ve seen such outrage is on this book by either Mr. Lott’s wage slaves who owe their entire existence to Mr. Lott or Scruggs defenders such as Bellesouth who would indeed defend Scruggs if he was caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

  • NoMiss

    “Seale said he has no problem with Dawson writing a book about the Scruggs cases per se. The issue is Dawson profiting from work he performed while he was a federal prosecutor.”

    Though he didn’t write a book, is there anyone alive who doesn’t think that former AG Mike Moore (and Seale’s former boss) didn’t financially profit from his “prosecution” of the tobacco companies? And I’m not talking about the money for Moore’s annual 20 million dollar self-aggrandizing, personal publicity “anti-tobacco” campaign. My thought is that Moore hasn’t written a book about the tobacco prosecution because there’s a lot he doesn’t want us to know.

  • Jackson B.

    Kingfish would like to invite each of you to The Auditorium in Fondren to continue this debate.
    $25 cover charge.

  • bellesouth

    Dawson wasn’t writing about himself in this book. He is wrting about something he was paid to do by you and me. If and when you ever decide to read and address the topic at hand (what Seale said) you might learn something but instead you shoot the messenger. It is not I who has an agenda here. I believe Seale has a point. But you just want to impugn him and me because of who you think we are.

    How do you know that Dawson didn’t have HUGE DOLLAR SIGNS IN HIS EYES when he took on this case and how do you know if that did not reflect on his duty as a prosecutor not just to prosecute but to make sure justice was carried out no matter whether or not you win a conviction? You don’t and I don’t but the question is there. And of all people to write a book with he chooses Alan Lange?! A radical right wing blogger? Back in the 80s he was probably still in diapers. BTW, how old are you?

    Oh, and how is your “scoop” coming along WRT Bell? Wrong on the law again, eh?

  • She committed obstruction of justice.

    If you want to defend the actions of Ms. Bell that night and morning, go right on ahead. You almost have to since your boy Hood tanked on prosecuting Ed Peters’ client for obstruction of justice. You know, that part of the law about knowingly harboring a fugitive or someone whose committed a crime. Puts you right there on the same level with Ms. Bell.

    Funny thing is Belle, you are the only one defending her and that should tell you something.

    As for Dawson, he had every right to write a book about his experiences AFTER he left office and the argument you make could be about EVERY public official or employee that writes a book after he or she leaves office. Why don’t you ask the same questions of Colin Powell or Bill Clinton?

    As for Lange, Lange and NMC/Lotus were the main ones that covered the Scruggs scandal. If someone wants to pick apart the quality of writing, that is definitely permissible, but I can see why he would team up with someone who knew the subject backwards and forwards. Why don’t you start disputing the actual facts or merits of the book instead of shooting the messenger.

    By the way, if Dawson had written the book with Donna Ladd or Jim Craig Belle, would you be referring to either as a left-wing blogger?

  • ampal

    so where’s ed peters in all this?

  • Outsider

    I noticed today that “Kings of Tort” is not for sale as a new book on Amazon.com. There are two used copies offered for sale, but the usual description and details that go with a new book listing do not appear. This is the one of the very few newly published books that is not for sale on the Amazon site.

    There are four reviews published on Amazon for this book, and one of them even sparked some comments. The latest review is by none other than Merrill Willaims, writing in his trademark stream-of-consciousness style. I have looked everywhere for Williams’ tobacco wars book “Intent to Deceive”, but my search has proved unsuccessful. I think it would be a reading experience not unlike Joyce’s “Ulysses”.

  • bellesouth

    Kingfisth, this is for you.

  • mississippiman

    In honor of Steve Seale, I will check this book out of the public library instead of buying it.

  • Thank Belle.

    You look very good chained to a giant lizard.

  • bellesouth

    James Hendrix, YOU TALKING TO ME?

  • Scrivener

    That is one crazy ass argument Seale is making.

  • I just have one question for you Alma:

    Does Jim Hood shave?

  • Robert

    Researcher @ 12:35

    “did they investigate the underlying cases and settlements and find nothing or did they intentionally not investigate those cases because then they might have to consider the conduct of corporate defense attorneys and their interaction with judges”

    Researcher, more than likely its worse. These corporate attorneys seem to also cross the political line interacting [bribring] both sides, using an after the fact approach as leverage. That little chemical deal of ours saw recluse of the first judge for criminal acts connected to and about five recluse judges total. Anytime any judge handled any part of the issuses. It was always improper to law. It also seems to include everyone.

    In our case against Seale’s firm the crime was intentional. It wasn’t a slow slip slide. With such facts to an open and shut case. Threat or not. We moved on. Only one sided protection by criminal actions could prevent redress. Me thinks a many of corporate attorneys are milking the cow through that crack in the fence.

  • meanderline

    I’m a little late to this party.

    I have no problem with ex-public officials writing about matters in which they were involved so long as confidentiality is respected. History is the beneficiary, and -if as Mr. Seale seems to be arguing – that the fruits of fame may motivate them to get off their bureaucratic behinds and undertake some uphill sledding – well, that may not be such a bad thing.

    On the flip side, very few states have laws prohibiting criminals from writing and profiting about their “exploits,” a particularly appropriate word for those, like Scruggs, who have exploited the system. Right now it seems the easiest way to become a millionaire is to commit a repulsive act, and then sell your story, witness all Tiger Woods mistresses. No doubt Scruggs will pen his memoirs in the near future. In the meantime it seems only fair to let the good guys profit from doing good.

  • catty

    Coast sales on the Kings of Tort were great.
    Lots of attorneys lining up to get a signed copy and suggest there is more news out there for another book.
    Rave on Seale; BellSouth…it only helps sell the book.

  • DeltaLawMama

    Ah, yes. The Streisand Effect. Good point Catty.

  • ampal

    minor case thrown out. half of dawson and lange’s book has been tossed out the window.

    http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20091211/NEWS/91211009/Appeals+panel+tosses+out+Minor+bribery+conviction

  • bellesouth

    Well, the CL kind of got it wrong. Three counts as to federal program bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666 were tossed. All others counts were affirmed.

    Had the judge known these counts would no longer be involved he might have analyzed the matter differently. See United States v. Puig-Infante, 19 F.3d 929, 950 (5th Cir. 1994). We note that, in case of Minor, because he received his longest sentence for his RICO conviction (one hundred and thirty-two months), remand might but will not necessarily result in a reduced sentence.

  • Anderson

    That’s what the CL article says, Belle (perhaps they updated it).

    No op on the CA5 website! Very frustrating. Thanks, Ampal!

  • bellesouth

    The decision affirmed all three appellants guilty of conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; mail, wire, and honest services fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, 1346, and 2; and Minor’s conviction of racketeering in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1962….

  • NMC

    it’s a big big deal. i just posted about it.

  • Partisanship goes beyond law and reason

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