The Exchange Club of Jackson presented Circuit Judge Henry Lackey, of Calhoun City, its Americanism award in a meeting last week.
Lackey was the judge a group of attorneys, including Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, his son and law partners, attempted to bribe in a case that has already led to several indictments, convictions and prison sentences. Lackey reported the improper overtures to federal authorities and began to cooperate in the investigation.
The Americanism award honors those who exhibit extraordinary appreciation for freedom and personal responsibility.
“I feel so unworthy,” Lackey said. “I am ambivalent about my involvement in the investigation. Of course, I’m saddened about the impact on the careers of some bright young lawyers.”
Dickie Scruggs and his son and law partner, Zach, each pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges and are serving prison time. Sidney Backstrom, also associated with the Scruggs Law firm, admitted his involvement and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Timothy Balducci, who initially approached Lackey about ruling in Scruggs’ favor in a dispute over legal fees, has pleaded guilty but has yet to be sentenced. Former state auditor Steve Patterson also awaits sentencing.
“Our system worked,” Lackey said, referring to the guilty pleas and subsequent punishment. “It worked because the bench, the bar, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney were dedicated to rooting out corruption.”
Roger Wicker, keynote speaker for the ceremony, called the case “unfortunate.”
“We appreciate that Judge Lackey stood on principle when called to do so,” he said.
Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .