Paul Quinn’s Weblog

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The case that made Scruggs bribe

Posted by paulquinn on June 27, 2008

Dickie Scruggs received the five year maximum sentence Friday for his role in trying to bribe Judge Henry Lackey. But how did a fee dispute case turn into a judicial bribery scandal?

Scruggs (among other things) did not like the original complaint against him because it made scurrilous remarks about him. Scruggs had Tim Balducci ask Lackey to throw out the accusations made by Jones and Funderburg attorney, Grady TollisonBalducci said to Lackey the fee dispute case should be sent to arbitration, and the accusations could be handled by summary judgement.

Tollison agreed there were scurrilous remarks in the original complaint, but said he could prove every single one of them.

So what did this complaint say? 

The Introduction is titled “The Greed of the Defendants”

This section explains what the Scruggs Katrina Group did,  along with the work done by Jones Funderburg. 

“After the performance of this work, the defendants (SKG), in concerted effort amounting to conspiracy, determined to ‘freeze out’ the Plaintiff (Jones and Funderburg) and reduce its proper share of the money,” the complaint reads.

The complaint explains who the different parties are and some facts of the case. Don Barrett, David Nutt, Scruggs, Sparky Lovelace and some others. 

Then the section entitled “The Scheme Begins” starts when Jones Funderburg first felt they were being short-changed.

“In December 2006 Don Barrett and Scruggs conspired among themselves to allocate Jones with a ridiculously low figure.”

Scruggs told Jones he would only receive 1 million dollars and nothing more. 

“Over the following three months the Defendants law firms and the individually named defendants attempted to bully and cajole the Plaintiff into taking less,” the complaint said. “These egregious acts were intended to cause and did cause extreme distress to the individual members of the Plaintiffs law firm.”

According to the complaint Jones and Funderburg asked for arbitration 20 times.

“The defendant Scruggs engaged in various activities such as the wrongful expenditures of funds belonging to the Joint Venture Agreement, including unauthorized hiring of personnel for Scruggs Katrina Group without approval of all members of SKG, and continued to do so without authority,” the complaint said.

In March 2007  SKG attorneys informed Jones and Funderburg their intent to force plaintiffs to take a sum determined by the other SKG attorney’s; or else Jones Funderburg would face immediate termination of all further involvement, the complaint says.

Jones asked SKG if they wanted to hear the basis of Jones’ legal authority, but was told such information was irrelevant, the complaint says.

The complaint then went on to say SKG attorneys told Jones Funderburg they had to answer before leaving the meeting. SKG attorneys relented allowing Jones Funderburg time to discuss the offer with their partners. But around 2 p.m. that same day an email sent to Jones by Barrett informed Jones they had 18 minutes to “call excepting (sic) my suggestion” or SKG would act accordingly.

Jones did not get the email until 4 p.m. that day and by this time SKG had already voted to remove Jones Funderburg.

The last pages of the 18 page complaint said Scruggs had repeatedly behaved this way, as did Barrett.

“Barrett and Scruggs wrongfully and illegally deprived the Plaintiff of property,” the complaint said. “A scheming cabal should not be allowed to succeed.”

Jones and Funderburg sought 20% for all past and future attorney fees collected by SKG. Punitive damages were also sought.  

The case is still ongoing Tollison said. Motions are being filed and Tollison is awaiting a November court hearing. 

Shortly after the case was filed Lackey was approached and the investigation began.  By November 28 2007 Scruggs and the four other conspirators were indicted, and in March 2008 the last three pleaded guilty.

The Bureau of Prisons awaits Scruggs’ arrival on August 4.



3 Responses to “The case that made Scruggs bribe”

  1. bellesouth said

    Wow, Paul! Thanks! Can you post the complaint? I’d love to see it, too. Which scurrlious accusations? That they were being “bullied?” Aww, poor guys! What I don’t get is why Tollison was fighting so hard against arbitration once it was before Lackey? Also, didn’t Jones admit that they had 1.5 lawyers working on Katrina cases?

  2. paulquinn said

    Bellesouth: I am going try and copy the complaint and put it online. It’s 18 pages, and a quarter a page was out of my price range.

    I believe the “scurrilous accusations” were about conspiring, his history in fee disputes and the hiring of people without permission. I asked Grady Tollison why people said the complaint was “scurrilous,” he agreed there were such remarks in the complaint. Tollison referred me to the document(because he didn’t have it on hand), and said I should be able to see what people meant. He then said he could prove what he was arguing.

    I looked up Merriam-Webster’s defination of scurrilous, which says: “using or given to coarse language.” I pulled parts of the complaint I thought were talking harshly about Scruggs or SKG. I have no idea if anyone was bullied or anything, but it was written so I put it.

    Tollison and I didn’t discuss arbitration, or Jones & Funderburg’s work for SKG.

    I was hoping to work this into a story I’ve been working on, but couldn’t find the room. I still wanted people to see what the document said to understand more about what happened.

  3. bellesouth said

    I guess Jones would know since he represented Scruggs in a fee disqute! There is something here that doesn’t seem right. Hell, if Jones didn’t like the way Scruggs was doing things, then maybe he shouldn’t have gotten involved with SKG and taken his $1,000,000.00 and gone home!

    1) Jones asks for arbitration 20 times.
    2) Scruggs says take $1,000,000 and go home
    3) Tollison files suit for Jones — scurrilous accusations
    4) Tollison has Ex-parte contact with Lackey to file suit under seal, judge agrees although he has never done such a thing before
    5) Scruggs wants arbitration, Tollison and Jones say no.
    6) Lackey recuses himself then put himself back on — a no no, evidently.
    7) No one asked for him to stay on, except the Feds.
    on and on. It just doesn’t make sense.

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