I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Supreme Court rejects method the AG has been using to pay outside attorneys

Two cases were decided by the Supreme Court today that vindicated auditor Pickering’s view of attorney general contracts with outside counsel:  Regardless of what fictions are used for payment, the funds coming out of the settlement are state funds and must be appropriated by the legislature before counsel can be paid them.

One of […]

A summary of the posts about the Scruggs II hearing last week

I’ve made a number of posts about last weeks hearing in Scruggs II, involving Dick Scruggs’s effort to set aside his guilty plea for corruptly influencing Bobby DeLaughter.  The issue in the hearing was whether Scruggs could prove that he was innocent of the charge of bribing the judge.

One major post was a summary […]

12-21-07: DeLaughter comes clean(er) with the FBI

You might want to read this chronology before reading this post.  You also probably should read about DeLaughter’s first FBI interview.

DeLaughter’s second FBI interview memo closes with passages that makes me wonder, again, why this was placed in evidence by the Scruggs team:

At the time, DELAUGHTER did not think that PETERS’ and LANGSTON’s help […]

12-10-07: Bobby DeLaughter misleads the FBI but then thinks better of it

You might want to read this chronology before reading this post.

Two FBI interview memos from Bobby DeLaughter were placed in evidence in the hearing.  With DeLaughter not testifying, it is not clear to me the evidentiary import of these documents.  Whatever that may be, there are some statements in the second one that […]

12-11-07: Ed Peters doesn’t come clean with the FBI

You might want to read this chronology before reading this post.

On December 11, the day after the FBI had raided Langston’s law office and visited Bobby DeLaughter, they dropped by Ed Paters’s office for a visit.  He didn’t have a lawyer, but decided to talk anyway.

In his interview, Peters “stated he represented STEVE PATTERSON […]

Scruggs I and II erupt: Some notes on the November 2007-January 2008

During the trial this week, three FBI interview memos surfaced for the first time:  2 interviews with Bobby DeLaughter and an interview with Ed Peters.  All of them occurred in mid-December of 2007.  To fully appreciate the context of these interviews, a timeline of events in late November of 2007 through early January of […]

What Langston, Balducci, and Patterson said about whether there was a quid pro quo between Scruggs and DeLaughter

For a bribery conviction, there has to be a quid pro quo, an exchange of a thing for a thing (note that “things” can be intangible).  The “quo” part is really easy here, although Scruggs’s side is pretending otherwise:  Scruggs’s side got inside access to the judge, the ability to make arguments to the […]

Scruggs II trial: Langston cross-examination

Joey Langston

Cross

Both Wilson v. Scruggs and Jones v. Scruggs to some extent were screwed.

At the New Albany meeting, Scruggs was angry.  He said he wanted to fire Dunbar and Jones.  He characterized Merkel as a junkyard dog and needed someone like that to fight him.

Langston agreed that when Al Luckey took his case before an honest judge it cost Scruggs $17M.  Luckey was a companion case with Wilson with many of the same issues.  Luckey’s complaint centered on the rights of a former partner and Wilson’s was more of a contract dispute because they had a dissolution agreement.

Norman states that Scruggs at that meeting described Dunbar as “like an old woman.”

Langston does not specifically recall the statement there was to be no 1099, but there was no 1099.

There are a lot of things wrong with the hiring of Peters.  No entry of appearance by Peters.  Kirksey did enter an appearance and everyone knew he was in the case.

Norman referred to Peters’ statement that Delaughter would follow the law and asked—wasn’t DeLaughter already breaking the law by giving Peters secret access?

Isn’t a judge who is accepting an intangible such as the consideration for a federal judge violating state law?

Langston acknowledged there was something wrong with the contacts between Peters and DeLaughter.  It was more than unethical, it was illegal—Langston pled guilty to a felony involving this.  He came to that thinking that it was illegal.

It was improper and wrong about the ex parte communication.  Whether or not that, in and of itself, is a crime, the court will have to determine.  Certainly, Langston’s object was to gain “good will” which is a fancy way of saying they were trying to influence the judge, and that was wrong, it was improper.

Langston was concerned that if DeLaughter ruled for Scruggs on every issue, that would be a red flag.  They did not pick and choose the issues they wanted him to rule for them, and it would have been a red flag if he ruled for Scruggs on every issue.

Q.            When you dangled a federal judgeship before the judge, you didn’t take a federal judgeship to be a thing of value.
A.            I didn’t think it was a thing of value at the time.  The judge in this case is going to have to rule on that.  … Initially that did not occur to me, but as I had further discussions,” realized another view of it.

Did not ask Peters to have ex parte contact with DeLaughter, but learned of it when Peters talked about it.

The ex parte contact produced favorable treatment.  Peters going to to DeLaughter e parte and arguing our points is favorable treatment.

Scruggs knew about the $50K and about anything significant.  When Ed Peters reported anything of significance, as to who was right or wrong on various points of law….  [Norman interrupted the answer].

Continue reading Scruggs II trial: Langston cross-examination

Scruggs II trial: Joey Langston direct examination

I’ll comment later about this.  Here are my notes.

Joey Langston

Direct

Has known Dick Scruggs since the mid-90s.  He has worked on cases with him—a variety of cases, primarily plaintiff-oriented cases.  From time to time served as defense or resolution counsel for companies with claims against them.  Relationship was a professional and personal friendship.

Langston knows Patterson.  Has known him for over thirty years.  First met him when Langston was at Millsaps.

Langston hired Balducci in 1990 or 1991, he left after a year and came to Oxford.  Years later, he came to Booneville and asked if he could come back to Langston’s law firm and work there.  He worked until he left the second time in 2007.

Langston represented Scruggs in 2005 and 2006.  There were a lot of issues that came up.  As far as pending litigation the Luckey and Wilson cases were the two prominent cases pending at that time that Langston helped on.  He got involved in the Wilson case.  Generally, the Wilson case was a fee dispute among lawyers.  Wilson claimed Scruggs owed asbestos fees.  Later he amended his suit to include a claim for tobacco fees.  Chronologically, the Luckey case was tried first in an arbitration.  The Wilson case came after that, and Langston was more actively involved in the trial of the Wilson case.  Langston read the pleadings and briefs in the case, as did Balducci.  There was a lot of motion practice in the case, which had gone on for ten years.  They read up on it, talked to other lawyers about it.  Made an assessment.  Langston felt very good about it, and expressed to Dick and the other lawyers involved that, if he did not prevail pretrial with dispositive motions, he would prevail at trial.  Langston was hired after the Luckey arbitration decision.

At the meeting Langston and Scruggs had in New Albany—it was a logical meeting place half-way between Oxford and New Albany.  They discussed the Luckey and Wilson cases.  They were related.  The Luckey case was arbitrated.  Langston was involved—“We had initially prepared for and planned to try the case.”  Had done mock trials and was pleased with the result in those.  Had spent time on legal issues and were confident they were in good shape there.  Thought they’d win at trial.  There was a difference of opinion among the lawyers on Scruggs’s side, and it was thought to end the case by arbitration.  Langston was against that because of the rights to trial by jury and appeal and pretrial practice that would be given up, and liked what he’d learned in the mock trials.  Langston did not prevail in that recommendation and it went to arbitration.  The arbitrator ruled against Scruggs and awarded a lot of money.  Scruggs thought it was not correct and was angry at those who recommended arbitration.  These were the same lawyers who were also in the Wilson case, and Scruggs wanted Langston to take a more active role in the Wilson case.

As Langston recalls, the idea to hire Ed Peters must have been in the fall of 2005.  He recalls Dick saying a lawyer from Jackson had said to him, “Look, if you have got a case in Hinds County and DeLaughter has got it, it is smart to associate Ed Peters.”  That became more of a factor because the other side had hired Bill Kirksey, who had been a partner of Judge DeLaughter’s.  Langston and Scruggs did not know DeLaughter.  It then fell to Langston to hire Ed Peters.  Langston did not know Peters, although Steve Patterson did.  Langston went to Steve’s office (Patterson was not employed by Langston but had a consulting firm with an office there) and said “Hey, we are going to take a more active role.  It’s been assigned to Judge DeLaughter, and it’s been suggested we hire Ed Peters.”  Patterson said yes and that he’d call him.   Steve reported that Peters agreed to work on the case, but that “we need to pay him $50,000 in cash.”  This must have been an idea hatched when Peters and Patterson spoke.  First person Langston heard this from was Steve.  Langston said, “I don’t have $50,000 in cash, how would I do that.”  Balducci, to Langston’s surprise, said “I do, I’ll put it up.”

Continue reading Scruggs II trial: Joey Langston direct examination

David Sanders and the 404(b) proof

There were two primary witnesses this morning, one, Magistrate Judge David Sanders, who was focused on the 404(b) proof, and the other, a former Scruggs Law Firm partner, David Shelton, who was the one partner not indicted in the Lackey case.

Judge Sanders was an Assistant US Attorney for six years in the Northern […]