By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter knew he wasn’t a viable candidate for a federal judgeship in 2006, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said two years later.
But its alleged lure is the lynchpin of 2009 bribery allegations against former Oxford attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs.
In a sworn deposition taken in October 2008, Lott told investigators and others that “my intent was to look for a judge in the southern part of the district.”
“So, if anybody thought he was being considered at all, let alone seriously considered, I don’t know what it was based on,” Lott said.
Sul Ozerden from the Gulf Coast ultimately was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.
Lott’s remarks came to light Tuesday in federal court filings unsealed by Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson.
Last week, Scruggs asked the court to unseal two documents in his push to overturn his conviction and guilty plea that he sought to improperly influence DeLaughter, who presided over a lawsuit against Scruggs and others.
The record shows that Scruggs, former Hinds District Attorney Ed Peters, former Booneville attorney Joey Langston and DeLaughter all insisted there was no agreement with the judge to get a federal judiciary post, if he ruled in favor of Scruggs.
Lott admits he got a call from Scruggs, his brother-in-law, saying DeLaughter wanted to know more about the nomination process, and Lott agreed to contact him “as a courtesy.” He also said Jackson attorney John Corlew contacted him to recommend DeLaughter.
“I remember making the call,” Lott said. “But I also – I’m pretty sure I emphasized to him because I – I had – I wanted somebody this time from the Coast …
“I didn’t, you know, I didn’t suggest that he was going to be given any consideration, you know, at all or more than anybody else.”
Besides, DeLaughter was a Democrat and Lott and Sen. Thad Cochran, Republicans, as was President George W. Bush, who made the final decision.
And the judge’s “controversial matters” – like the successful murder prosecution of white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith – posed a problem.
“If you have been involved in famous or infamous matters, it makes confirmation more difficult,” Lott said. “He didn’t meet the criteria I was looking for for a lot of reasons.”
After his phone conversation with DeLaughter, Lott said he told his chief counsel no further action was necessary.
As to whether Scruggs asked him to use his influence for DeLaughter, Lott said, “He did not and he would have known better than to even suggest such a thing.”