On June 27, 2008 Richard Scruggs was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Perhaps he and a few of the others can open a federal prison bar association to discuss the error of their ways. According to the Associated Press: "U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. called Scruggs' conduct "reprehensible" and fined him $250,000. The judge handed down the full sentence requested by prosecutors despite arguments from the defense for half that time in prison. "Scruggs appeared to nearly faint as the federal judge scolded him for his conduct. Some people in the Oxford, Miss., courtroom gasped as Scruggs started to sway side to side, and his attorney grabbed his arm to steady him. He had to be seated before the sentence was read." According to Legal Newsline: "A 2003 audit of Scruggs in an asbestos fees dispute showed a net worth of approximately $200 million." Judge Biggers sentenced co-conspirator Backstrom to only two years and four months in prison and fined him $250,000. Biggers reportedly said he was impressed that Backstrom seemed remorseful about his role in the case. "I cannot say that I have seen that kind of remorse from your co-defendants," the judge said. It appears that when insurance money is involved -- over $27 million in fees from settlement of Katrina claims -- even the wealthiest of lawyers can be tempted to do a crime to get more. The judge on whom the bribe attempt was made was presiding over a suit to divide the fees among various law firms. Scruggs wanted a bigger share and caused $40,000 to be offered to the judge to "earwig" or convince him to rule in the favor of Scruggs. On July 2, 2008 Judge Neal Biggers sentenced Zach Scruggs, son of Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, to 14 months in prison and a $250,000 fine. The judge, like everyone in the Mississippi bar should be, was appalled by the actions of Zach Scruggs and those of his father, the now infamous Dickie Scruggs. Zach was sentenced regardless of the agreement he reached with the prosecution it was not binding on the court. The full transcript can be read here.
We can rest knowing that at least one Mississippi judge will apply the law and will not play favorites with rich plaintiffs’ lawyers.