By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – A Prentiss County lawsuit over multimillion-dollar attorneys fees needs a new judge.
Last Friday, all four 1st Circuit District judges wrote to the Mississippi Supreme Court for an “out of district” judge to preside over attorney R.H. “Bo” Burress III’s lawsuit against former attorney Joey Langston and his law firm.
The judges said their withdrawal – called recusal – was based on their assertion that “a party in this matter” regularly practices law before them.
Their decision isn’t unusual, although it’s less usual that all the district’s judges withdraw.
It wasn’t immediately known when the state’s highest court will choose another judge.
Filed Dec. 29, 2011, the lawsuit claims Langston and his Booneville-based firm failed to pay Burress what he expected for his part in their winning a $20.8-million federal court jury award in 2005.
At the time, court personnel said the verdict was the largest in the state’s federal court history.
The case of Michael Foradori Jr. stemmed from his Dec. 22, 2000, injury in a Tupelo fast-food restaurant parking lot. The 15-year-old was left a full quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
In April 2008, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict.
It’s widely believed that fees to Langston and his firm were in the neighborhood of $12 million from the total award.
Burress left the Langston firm in February 2008, just weeks after Langston pleaded guilty to involvement in a scheme to improperly influence then-Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter presiding over a lawsuit against Oxford’s Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and others.
Langston was disbarred and served a prison term, although his plea deal protected his financial interests including his share in the Foradori case.
Langston’s attorney, William Spencer of Tupelo, asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the statute of limitations has run out on Burress’ ability to sue and for other reasons.
During the Foradori trial, Langston stressed that his client could live another 50 years. The jury awarded $8 million for future medical expenses.
But in April 2011 at age 25, Foradori died from complications of that injury.