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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Scruggs and the Government file their briefs….

The court asked for proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.  Yesterday, the Government filed an eight page brief, and the Scruggs side filed a forty pages proposed findings.  There’s a “don’t think about the elephant” quality to the Scruggs proposed findings.  The elephant is the testimony from Peters, Paterson, Langston, and Balducci […]

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 […]

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

Scruggs II trial, Day Two: Steve Funderburg describes the history of the Wilson case

The first morning witness of the second day was Steve Funderburg.  His firm (also Johnny Jones’s firm) represented Scruggs in the Wilson case; he described the history.  Scruggs sought to establish that Funderburg, operating honestly and unaware of Peters’s contact with DeLaughter, thought they were taking positions they believed correct and that Funderburg (and not Balducci) was taking the lead in drafting pleadings.  He provided a lot of history of the case.

A couple of major points that Scruggs’s team is attempting make are that, first, the decisions in 2005-2006 (during the period Peters was acting behind the scenes) were all the logical result of a 2002 order, and thus not any corrupt deal, and, second, that the decisions weren’t hanging out there waiting to be made at the time of the March 2006 call from Trent Lott– they were made either before than (January of 2006) or after (July of 2006).  The prosecution is countering that there was corrupt contact and it was an advantage for the Scruggs team, and that, what Scruggs’s team sought was to get advantages in discretion calls that could not be reversed on appeal.  The points the Scruggs team is making seem glancing blows to me:  The question still comes down to whether consideration for the federal bench is of value and whether that was dangled out before DeLaughter as a part of an effort to influence him.

Here’s my notes on Funderburg’s testimony.

Steve Funderburg

Direct

Been a partner in firm since 2000.  Has been practicing since 94.  Is familiar with Wilson v. Scruggs from performing some legal work in the case.  Firm was representing Dickie Scruggs.  His role was primarily research and legal writing, did some argument in October of 2005.  He is familiar with Tim Balducci.  He was part of the defense team.

Steve’s role vs. Tim’s role:  Tim did a lot of what Steve did later in the case, would participate in some of the legal writing, wrote some things.  Would review some things Steve would prepare and make some edits to that.  Does not know if Tim did his own legal research.  From about the Summer of 05 until mid-January of 06, Steve was involved without input from Balducci.  From mid-January, Balducci was involved pretty heavily.  After Balducci was involved, Steve did not draft pleadings in March of 06 or April 06.  Steve’s firm was asked to put the brakes on some of the work, but after was asked to be engaged again and then worked full-time May, June, July and August of 06.    Steve was drafting pleadings and sending them on to Balducci for input.

Continue reading Scruggs II trial, Day Two: Steve Funderburg describes the history of the Wilson case

What Ed Peters said about how he worked Judge DeLaughter in Wilson v. Scruggs

Yesterday, Dickie Scruggs’s legal team filed a motion to clarify; they included as exhibits Ed Peters’s grand jury testimony and the memorandum from one of Peters’s FBI interviews (there were at least three, and this give us about a third of the notes).  As Bob Norman notes in the grand jury transcript, these documents […]

Judge Hitner in Wilson v. Scruggs: Lets get on with it– and do so in 14 pt type

What remains of Wilson v. Scruggs is in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.  As I’ve posted earlier, Wilson has settled with Scruggs and Langston but continues to pursue Patterson, Peters, and Balducci (the last filed a pleading admitting liability but asserting other defendants were primarily liable).  The case is […]

Scruggs news: US v. $425K (the Peters fee case) resolved with $280K paid to Roberts Wilson

Recall that the first substantial public evidence that Ed Peters had “come in” and become to some degree a government witness was a forfeiture action filed between Christmas and New Years in 2008, in which the Government alleged that he had surrendered to them $425,000 that remained of his million dollar fee for helping […]

Well, this could be fun: US v. $425,000 (the Ed Peters fee case) set for trial in March

Judge Hittner just entered an order setting the U.S. v. $425,000 case– the one whether the government or Wilson gets to keep the money Ed Peters turned over from his ill-gotten fee paid by Scruggs for influencing Judge DeLaughter– for a bench trial on March 22nd.  The order (oddly enough) doesn’t say where, but […]

Judge Hittner denies government’s motion to strike Wilson’s claim to Peters’s $425K

Recall that in December of 2008, the government filed an action about the money Ed Peters had turned over to them (they said it was what was left of his million dollar fee in Wilson v. Scruggs).  Wilson’s lawyers jumped into the case, claiming that the money should rightfully be his.  The government filed […]