Scruggs Nation, February 18: 'Too dumb for Dickie'

The Scruggs defense just got its official slogan, if it is on the ball enough to know a gem when they see it, from this Q&A in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog with actor Colm Feore, who played Scruggs in a movie.  

Back in November, Scruggs was indicted for allegedly bribing a judge in Mississippi, and it’s turned into quite a mess. In fact, we call it The Mess in Mississippi. The case might go to trial in March. Have you heard about any of this?

I had not heard about this case. But on the face of it, it seems way too dumb for Dickie. My experience of Mr. Scruggs is of a very generous, smart, and kindly southern gentleman. You must always keep in mind that Dickie’s success has likely made him as many enemies as friends. It sounds like rubbish to me.

There you have it: "Too Dumb For Dickie." Perfect number of words and syllables for all of the following:

  • a bumper sticker (suggested promotion: "salt" demand by covertly putting bumper stickers on thousands of cars, making it appear everyone else owns one of these must-have cool items)
  • a T-shirt (suggested art: Scruggs in a pose like Rodin's The Thinker)
  • a propaganda flyer distributed in the streets and left under windshield wipers (gives gritty "street" feel to defense of Scruggs, makes it seem like the people are rising up, speaking truth to power, ready to back The Scruggs -- also distracts from uncomfortable fact that Scruggs has moved for change of venue for trial because he apparently fears being judged by his own)   
  • a fridge magnet (suggested promotion: give bags of magnets to kids, tell them to affix magnets to parked vehicles, offer payment of Too Dumb For Dickie T-shirt and bumper sticker)
  • a banner in a protest march (see third item: if not enough people are interested in authentic protest march, bring in underemployed actors for fake protest, have everyone wear Scruggs masks to keep them from being identified, immediately get them out of state before media interviews them and finds they all speak with New York accents)   
  • a public access cable show (suggestion: hire really good looking actors and actresses to pretend to be ordinary Mississippi teens and young adults and their parents who are concerned about things like justice and how famous, rich lawyers are unfairly targeted by the criminal justice system) 
  • a sky-writing message from an airplane (suggestion: file motion with court to allow currently grounded-by-court-order Air Scruggs to be outfitted with sky-writing equipment, make up silly argument about how it is unconstitutional for a man not to be allowed to use his own property in his defense)
  • a forehead tattoo (suggested promotion: set up mobile tattoo parlor in a panel truck near college campus, provide "bottomless" cup of beer from kegs in truck to anyone who gets tattoo)
  • a production by a puppet theater (kids will pester parents to buy items like T-shirts, magnets and bumper stickers, will demand to be allowed to get forehead tattoo, pressure parents to vote to acquit if picked for Scruggs jury) 
  • a hip-hop song ("Yo, it's too dumb for Dickie/ That bribe was just a quickie/ You talkin' 'bout The Scruggs/ My man don't run with thugs/ My man ain't implicated/ It ain't sophisticated" -- offer free internet download together with 50-percent-off coupon for purchase of T-shirt, fridge magnet and forehead tattoo) 
  • an episode of "My Name Is Earl" (substantial product placement fee may be necessary -- be prepared with legal research that establishes product placement fee cannot be used as evidence of related prior bad acts) 
  • an art project for a third-grade classroom (furnish free supplies including American flag stick-ons, red, white and blue crayons, stickers that say "Justice May Be Blind But She Ain't Dumb, And Neither Is Dickie," include numerous finished posters by professional artists that kids can sign their names to -- display posters in prominent public location, have public vote and offer prize to winning entry "That best captures the injustice of the false allegations and charges" -- make sure prize is not exact amount of $40,000, arrange for prize to go to non-existent kid, Justice Foreall, for "Tears for Dickie" entry actually made by Dickie Scruggs, produce fake video where actor pretending to be journalist pretends to interview kid actor who pretends to be Justice Foreall, who donates cash prize to the newly-endowed Too Dumb For Dickie Scholarship at Ole Miss Law School)  
  • a more or less continuous courtroom interjection ("Objection, Your Honor -- Too Dumb For Dickie")
  • a celebrity cause-of-the-day (convince celebrity friends and non-friend celebrities who are merely looking for some controversy and publicity to stage "Scruggs-a-thon," whereby they produce videos to be distributed to local TV stations in which they pretend to lock themselves in jail cells and vow to remain there until Scruggs is freed -- make sure in each video the celebrity ends the piece by thrusting his or her upraised fist through the bars and shouting, "It's too dumb for Dickie: Free Scruggs!" -- try if at all possible to limit participation only to celebrities who are not well known to be dumb themselves). 

Scruggs legal and marketing teams -- get busy: remember, every good career comeback has a slogan. Also, one of those dumb little clip art things that perfectly sums up the slogan is needed, include it with all materials: here's my suggestion

Did you like that line in the Q&A about how Scruggs' success has made him as many enemies as friends, and that's the reason for all this unpleasantness? That is so true! I mean, I was just watching a public access show on cable about how famous, rich white guys can't catch a break from the criminal justice system.  I don't mind telling you, I was shocked.  It really made me think, especially after I found a flyer on my car windshield, and my kids started bugging me about wanting to get art lessons -- it seems like every kid in America wants to be a famous artist like that kid in Mississippi, Justice Foreall.    

This all sounds familiar, where have I heard it before? Oh, right, the WSJ Law Blog's interview with novelist John Grisham right after the Scruggs indictment.  Grisham said he couldn't believe Scruggs would be involved in such an unsophisticated bribery plot.   

What do you make of the indictment of Dickie Scruggs?

My initial reaction was one of surprise. I know Dickie Scruggs. This doesn’t sound like the Dickie Scruggs that I know. I was really shocked by the news. When you know Dickie and how successful he has been you could not believe he would be involved in such a boneheaded bribery scam that is not in the least bit sophisticated. I don’t believe it. I hope it’s all proven to be wrong.

Now, let's turn to a related, vital question.  Which kind of people will be best inclined to support Scruggs on the jury at his trial? My research into this -- which admittedly consists, so far, only of reading these two posts on the WSJ Law Blog -- strongly suggests that one group that can be expected to be very skeptical of these charges is famous, rich friends of Dickie Scruggs. 

Another related question: who can be expected to be the least sympathetic?  My research into this -- which admittedly consists, so far, only of reading Scruggs' motion for a change of venue -- is that people who live near Scruggs and know the most about him would be the worst.   My research also indicates that venues where Scruggs could expect a fair trial include any county where the jury pool consists largely of famous, rich friends of his.

Finally, speaking of Grisham, he has a new book out, as you may know.  I may be one of the few people in this country who has never read a John Grishman book -- no particular reason, I just never got around to it.  I've seen some movies made from his books, and I enjoyed those, and I once drove cross-country while listening to a books-on-tape of his "A Painted House" -- what a wonderful story that was, it made the miles fly by.  But I've never read one of his books.  Maybe I'll have to pick up the new one in light of what I heard about it from a friend of mine, coverage lawyer Randy Maniloff.

Here's what Randy said -- (he gave me permission to use this, I don't want people to think I cut from e-mails and out folks on the blog without talking it over with them):

When the Scruggs story broke, this is what John Grishman had to say about it . . . .

"When you know Dickie and how successful he has been you could not believe he would be involved in such a boneheaded bribery scam that is not in the least bit sophisticated. I don’t believe it. I hope it’s all proven to be wrong."

Cut to two months later and Grisham releases his latest novel, "The Appeal."  The inside dust jacket describes the book like this:

"In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town's water supply, causing the worst cancer cluster in history.  The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict or reverse it.

"Who are the nine?  How will they vote? Can one be replaced before the case is ultimately decided? The chemical company is owned by a Wall Street predator named Carl Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau is convinced the Court is not friendly enough.  With judicial elections looming, he decides to purchase himself a sea on the Court.  The cost is a few million dollars, a drop in the bucket for a billionaire like Mr. Trudeau.  Through an intricate web of conspiracy and deceit, his political operatives recruit a young, unsuspecting candidate.  They finance him, manipulate him, market him, and mold him into a potential Supreme Court justice.  Their Supreme Court justice.

"The Appeal is a powerful, timely, and shocking story of political and legal intrigue, a story that will have readers unable to think about our electoral process or judicial system in quite the same way ever again."

Who knew that what Grisham was doing was setting the stage for his impending sale of a sophisticated bribery scheme?  

Me again: sounds like a real page turner, true enough -- kind of a Manchurian Candidate type of deal, made in the USA -- let's call it the Mashulavillian Candidate.  This is timely, too, because it really hits the nail on the head: one of the greatest problems in Mississippi today? Judges who don't know they are being bribed!  What we need more of are judges who are at least smart enough to know if they are being bribed -- you know, a judge that when you tell him you are going to drop off a bushel of sweet potatoes doesn't invite you over for supper.

 

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Ping sent from Overlawyered on February 20, 2008 8:46 PM
Big news day in the Scruggs scandals: a judge has turned down defense motions to throw out the charges and to suppress the evidence, a hearing on those motions has showcased the testimony of government...
Written By:Bob Neal On February 18, 2008 3:53 AM

Grisham cracks me up. Every defense attorney knows that Mississippi courts have been so stacked against business for the last 20 years that we tell our clients to avoid having locations there if possible. Unfortunately, a book (even fictional) portraying the Mississippi court system for what it truly is doesn't sell.

Written By:nmc On February 18, 2008 7:19 AM

You're missing a great opportunity for amusement this morning-- Jim Hood explaining he's still there for the people of Miss., and how he won the SF case, described here

Written By:MORE COWBELL On February 18, 2008 7:26 AM

Anybody talk to Al Pacino, Russell Crowe or Christopher Plummer yet for their take? What about the real Mike Wallace. David, how did you like "The Insider?" My favorite line about the 7 tobacco ceo's who committed perjury before Congress, "Thieves in suits."

Written By:David Rossmiller On February 18, 2008 8:14 AM

Cowbell, actually I've never seen The Insider. Usually I'm not crazy about movies about lawyers, I prefer entertainment that sends them up as total buffoons, like Boston Legal -- chopping fingers off priests while attempting to illegally gather evidence, impersonating federal agents, blatantly having sex with clients, making pompous, juvenile political speeches in court, etc.

Written By:Anthony W On February 18, 2008 8:38 AM

Isn't skywriting with your own plane a first-amendment freedom of speech kind of thing?

Written By:Gavin Stephens On February 18, 2008 9:04 AM

David,

Dickie doesn't want the change of venue because people in Oxford and Lafayette county know him. They don't. Dickie, who went to college here then lived 300miles away on the Gulf coast, which is really an entirely different state. It is worlds away from Oxford. Dickie has only been back to oxford for less than a decade and by and large is unknown to the average Joe and Jane in the jury pool.

Dickie wants a change of venue because EVERYONE IN LAFAYETTE COUNTY KNOWS HENRY LACKEY.

Lackey would most likely win an election for the MOST HONEST CITIZEN in this county.

Dickie wants a change of venue because our community epitimizes the deep south and the way in which lines are often draw between people "FROM' here and outsiders. Dickie, in spite of his wealth, is an outsider in Lafayette county and viewed by many as a carpetbagger. The two dumb for Dickie defense doesn't wash without a change of venue because the jury of natives will believe Judge Lackey.

The defense needs a place where dickie is a mythical creature, and this judge is an unknown. The Fed's missplayed their hand showing that their are other judges in Miss that might be on the take. That will stick on Lackey in some jurisdictions, but not at home.
Gavin Stephens

Written By:Interesting On February 18, 2008 11:01 AM

Gavin---Hadn't even thought about the everyone-knows-Lackey side. Good point.

Written By:Liz On February 18, 2008 11:29 AM

Re: Jim Hood's oped this morning in the Clarion Ledger, I have a question regarding this statement by Hood: "In fact, allegations lodged against me by this insurer were shown to be false when a federal judge recently threw out a lawsuit it had filed against my office." How can he say the judge threw the lawsuit out, if it was settled by agreement of the parties? And why is Hood even talking about this if it's supposed to be a sealed settlement?

Written By:David Rossmiller On February 18, 2008 11:39 AM

I saw the Clarion Ledger thing late yesterday (maybe it was early this morning, sometimes it's the same thing to me) but it took me a while to finish the Scruggs post so I left that one for another day. You make some good points, I'll post tomorrow on it.

Written By:DeltaNative On February 18, 2008 12:33 PM

Everyone may want to read Patsy Brumfield's latest on Hood, if you have a moment:

http://www.djournal.com/pages/story.asp?ID=266455&pub=1&div=News

Written By:injustice 4 all On February 18, 2008 2:42 PM

Yeah, Mississippi courts are very unfair to corportions right now. That shows you dont actually practice law here. Defense firms are begging us to file suits as they lay off assocaites.

Here is what I find most amusing. How ever said Dickie was a genuis? No one that was worked with him in the plaintiffs bar has ever said that to me. He is creative, resourceful, connected, somewhat relentless, and a great team manager and the luckiest man alive, until this anyway but considerably smarter than the average lawyer? That too is a media myth or something you defense lawyers who never really understand us, made up. It has never been or ever was true.

Written By:DeltaNative On February 18, 2008 3:38 PM

One more story unfolding. Looks like the Clarion-Ledger has finally woken up.

http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080218/NEWS/80218046&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL

Written By:bob neal On February 18, 2008 5:09 PM

Yes, they are laying off attorneys b/c their clients (businesses) have exited. I represent a fortune 50 company. Before that, another fortune 400. Both had locations in Mississippi and I had cases there. I know more about the system there than I care to. Thanks for playing though.

Written By:Mac On February 18, 2008 7:41 PM

Just read Sid Salter's blog reporting on Jim Hood's visit with the Jackson Clarion Ledger editorial board. It's absolutely incredible. How could this man twice win statewide election? He's either lost his mind or never had one to begin with. Now I see why Courtney handled everything.

Written By:Dixie K. Blankley On February 19, 2008 4:30 PM

Mac, one of the major reasons Hood won the last election was because, when his opponent (not an experienced politician) tried to inform the people of what Hood had been up to, our print media rose up and started crying "Foul", and painted his opponent as a very negative campaigner, and the sheeple bought into it.

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