By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ORLEANS – A 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision Friday sent Richard “Dickie” Scruggs’ federal conviction back to North Mississippi for action.
Just after noon, the New Orleans court announced it had affirmed his 2009 guilty plea and conviction to attempting to improperly influence a circuit judge presiding over a legal-fees lawsuit against himself and others.
The court sent the Scruggs appeal back to Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson’s court for the case’s next phase.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Scruggs will attempt to get his case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which earlier this year denied his son Zach’s conviction appeal.
His appeals attorney, Edward Robertson, declined to comment on their next move.
Scruggs still has some part of his 2009 sentence to serve, and Davidson allowed him to go free from prison on $1 million bond until his appeals issues were settled.
He’d already completed his prison term on a 2008 bribery case aimed at Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City.
This second guilty plea dealt with the government’s allegations he sought to bribe then-Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter when he suggested his help with a federal judgeship for the Hinds County judge.
Friday, the 5th Circuit acknowledged that offer was good enough to constitute a bribe. Scruggs insisted it was political speech and not a crime.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up Zach Scruggs’ appeal of his 2008 conviction to knowing about but failing to report that a colleague had an illegal conversation with Lackey.
Dickie Scruggs never appealed the first guilty plea, so some court-watchers predict the 5th Circuit’s decision could be the end of the line for one of the state’s most notorious judicial scandals, which began in 2007.
Besides the Scruggses, three others pleaded guilty and served prison time.
In the DeLaughter case, then-Booneville attorney Joey Langston pleaded guilty and went to prison. Judge DeLaughter pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about legal contacts and went to prison.
At least six lawyers permanently lost their licenses to practice law across both scandals.