Texas judge to handle Scruggs case

Chris Rizo Oct. 27, 2009, 10:00am


HOUSTON (Legal Newsline)-A federal judge in Texas will hear a lawsuit claiming that disgraced former trial attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs and several others conspired to defraud a former colleague of millions of dollars in legal fees.

Chief Judge Edith Jones of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ordered the case be reassigned to U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston, Texas.

The lawsuit against Scruggs was filed by William Roberts Wilson Jr. of Tuscaloosa, Ala. He and Scruggs, who currently suits in federal prison, once worked together suing asbestos companies.

Wilson alleges that Scruggs cheated him out of legal fees, and that Scruggs used his ill-gotten gains to bankroll lawsuits against tobacco companies in the 1990s.

Scruggs gained notoriety when his work helped lead to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which has an estimated worth of $246 billion for the 52 participating territories and states.

Scruggs is serving 7 1/2 years in prison for a judicial bribery scheme. In one of the cases, he pleaded guilty to offering $50,000 to Lafayette Circuit Judge Henry Lackey for a favorable ruling in a dispute over attorneys' fees from Hurricane Katrina lawsuits.

He was indicted along with his son and a law firm partner after an associate of theirs wore a wire for the FBI to secretly record conversations about the bribery plan.

Scruggs' legal work was chronicled in the 1999 film "The Insider," starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com

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