Judge tosses lawsuit against Scruggs

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Published: June 9,2010

Tags: courts, lawsuit

JACKSON — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by two Gulf Coast attorneys who had accused former attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and associated law firms of using money owed to them in a scheme to bribe judges and other elected officials.

Lee Young and Charles J. Mikhail filed the lawsuit in 2009 in federal court in Jackson for money they say Scruggs’ firm withheld from the national tobacco settlement in the 1990s.

They claimed that it was falsely represented as being taken for tobacco-related obligations.

They also claimed the defendants broke federal racketeering laws.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett Monday dismissed Young and Mikhail’s racketeering claims, saying they do not allege “any threat of ‘future criminal conduct’” beyond a few months, which is not what Congress had in mind when it established such a crime.

With dismissal of the federal racketeering claims, Starrett said the court declined to take jurisdiction over their other claims, which should be refiled in state court.

Young and Mikhail insisted they were owed more than $1.4 million in legal fees for their work on national tobacco case settlements.

Young and Mikhail also claimed part of their fees were paid by Scruggs to then-Booneville attorney Joey Langston to compensate Ed Peters for improperly influencing then-Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter of Hinds County, who was presiding over another legal fees case.

Scruggs, three other attorneys and a former state auditor are in prison after guilty pleas and convictions.

Langston was not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Young and Mikhail allege that Scruggs claimed that Langston was paid for work on tobacco-related cases, but really got $3 million to bribe DeLaughter and $1 million to get Peters, one of DeLaughter’s former bosses when Peters was district attorney, to contact the judge.

DeLaughter pleaded guilty in 2009 to obstructing justice.

Scruggs, former partner Sidney Backstrom, former New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci, and former state Auditor Steven Patterson all are in prison after earlier guilty pleas to various charges.

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