He was a lawyer’s lawyer.Â The Tom Wolfe of the legal profession with his sartorial splendor.Â He was the good guy in the story of Jeffrey Wigand’s battle with theÂ tobacco companies (“The Insider”).Â Mr. Scruggs recovered $206 billion in his class-action suit against the tobacco companies.Â His fee was $1 billion forÂ that case broughtÂ for 46 states.Â But, the judge presiding over Mr. Scruggs’s 2007 class-action against an insurance company for Hurricane Katrina damages contacted the FBIÂ about a bribery attempt. There are two theories on how the indictment was able to include exact language of conversations between the judge and others.Â One is that the judge and/or his office were wired.Â This theory makes more sense because the judge reported the attempt, and other conversations could have been obtained by taps.Â Still another theory is that one of the four others Scruggs was working with to bribe the good judge cut a deal with the FBI and agreed to wear a wire. Never trust the people you cheat with.Â They will throw you under the bus.The wire captured Mr. Scruggs’s actions and intent.Â He entered a guilty plea in March 2008 to various charges.Â He was sentenced to five years, the maximum,Â and will report to prison on August 4. Zachary Scruggs, his son, has also entered a guilty plea and will be sentenced on July 2, 2008.Â AllÂ of the remainingÂ lawyers involved in the bribery scheme have also entered guilty pleas.
Those in the legal profession are left scratching their heads becauseÂ Mr. Scruggs was so good, possessed ofÂ the skill to win any case.Â “He didn’t need to cheat,” was the comment of a representative from the American Trial Lawyers Association.Â As for Scruggs, his words at his sentencing were poignant, “I could not be more ashamed to be where I am today, mixed up in a judicial bribery scheme . . . I realized I was getting mixed up in it.Â And I will go to my grave wondering why.Â I have disappointed everyone in my life, my wife, my family, my son, particularly . . . I deeply regret my conduct.Â It is a scar and a stain on my soul that will be there forever.”
Compiled from news reports including, Abha Bhattarai, “Class-Action Lawyer Given 5 Years in a Bribery Case,” New York Times, June 28, 2008, p. B3.
Ashby Jones, “Scruggs Gets Maximum Five-Year Sentence,” Wall Street Journal, June 28-29, 2008, p. A3
and from MARIANNE M. JENNINGS, BUSINESS ETHICS:Â CASES AND SELECTED READINGS, 4th and 5th Editions.