By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – A three-judge panel will hear on Monday former Oxford attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs’ appeal on his 2008 guilty plea that he improperly influenced Judge Bobby DeLaughter.
Attorneys for Scruggs, 66, will seek to convince the judges his offer to help DeLaughter’s pursuit of a federal judgeship was not a bribe but protected “political speech.”
The appeal goes to New Orleans after Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson denied it in May 2012.
Late last year, Davidson granted Scruggs bail and a temporary reprieve from beginning the DeLaughter sentence while the 5th Circuit considers the appeal.
Scruggs, once one of the nation’s most famous litigators, completed an earlier prison stint for his guilty plea to a scheme to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City.
DeLaughter and Lackey presided over legal-fees lawsuits against Scruggs and associates.
The government insists Scruggs knew about DeLaughter’s ambition to be a federal judge and “lured him” by the offer to pass his name along to Scruggs’ brother-in-law, then-U.S. Sen. Trent Lott.
During a March 2012 hearing on the issue, Lott said he never gave DeLaughter any illusions he’d be suggested for any open federal judgeships.
All federal district judgeship nominations must come from the White House, but home-state senators must support the choices for them to get approval of the full U.S. Senate.
In his earlier appeal to Davidson, Scruggs’ attorneys conceded that a scheme to corrupt DeLaughter was “reprehensibly unethical,” but that it did not involve a core requirement of a bribe – a “quid pro quo” or one thing for another – that the promise of help was not “a thing of value.”
The government states that such a thing need not be tangible, but implied.
In 2008, DeLaughter pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a longtime friend, attorney Ed Peters, whom Scruggs had hired to help with the case.
DeLaughter completed his prison term. Peters was given immunity.