But, alas, not as a litigator – the role that made him rich and famous – but as a defendant. According to Legal Newsline, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs is headed back to federal court to plead guilty to another count of trying to bribe a judge. He’s already serving a five-year sentence for a previous bribery attempt.
OpenMarket readers will remember Scruggs as one of the fattest of fat cat trial lawyers to emerge from the multi-state tobacco settlement reached between tobacco companies and state attorneys general in 1998. Our own Hans Bader revisited the scandalous fees charged by lawyers like Scruggs last June and August. Attorneys, many of whom did nothing but re-file copycat lawsuits in their own states, reaped a windfall of $15,000,000,000 (that’s fifteen billion dollars) in legal fees.
But at least the money that didn’t end up in the pockets of men like Scruggs went to help sick smokers, right? That was, after all, the rationale for extorting $240 billion from tobacco companies. Not so much, it seems. Just in the last week the Virginia General Assembly has been a contentious place, as state lawmakers argue about whether the state should have spent large amounts of its tobacco settlement money on things like “high-speed Internet access in rural areas, upgrades to sewer lines, a scenic trail to honor Virginia’s musical heritage and a railroad museum.” I don’t remember anyone campaigning for the MSA by telling us they were fighting for more railroad museums and musical hiking trails. It must have slipped their mind.