AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs in a photo taken
in May 2007.

Richard Scruggs Draws Maximum Prison Sentence for Attempted-Bribery Conviction

June 30, 2008 07:50 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Mississippi attorney Scruggs was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted bribery related to his class-action lawsuit against insurance companies after Hurricane Katrina.

30-Second Summary

On Friday, June 27, 2008, in an Oxford, Miss., courtroom crowded with supporters, Richard Scruggs was handed the maximum sentence for his crime—five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

His class-action suit against State Farm Insurance for denying Hurricane Katrina claimants was complicated by shifting alliances among other trial lawyers involved in the case. One of these led to his indictment in November 2007.

In an attempt to win a $26.5 million dispute related to the insurance case, Scruggs, his son, Zach, and law partner Sidney Backstrom were implicated in a conspiracy to bribe Judge Henry Lackey.

Scruggs is well known for his prior cases against Big Tobacco and for asbestos-related lawsuits, and has been recognized for formulating “his own brand of litigation, entrepreneurial and boldly speculative,” said a New Yorker profile of Scruggs and the case against him.

Supporters maintain Scruggs’s innocence despite his guilty plea. Some insiders blame Tim Balducci, a lawyer who offered to pay Lackey and who obtained evidence against Scruggs for the FBI.

Meanwhile, friends and supporters, including brother-in-law Trent Lott, are left wondering why a man with so much money and influence would resort to bribery.
Said one Scruggs ally, “Dick didn’t get where he got by asking permission. He got where he got by counting on asking for forgiveness, if he needed to.”

Headline Links: Big-time attorney draws big-time sentence

Background Links: The case against State Farm Insurance

Key Players: Richard F. Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom

Related Topics: The tort wars, Lerach and Weiss, "The Insider"

The 1999 film “The Insider” was based on a 1996 article in Vanity Fair by Marie Brenner about former tobacco executive Jeffrey Wigand. The original article can be accessed at Marie Brenner’s Web site, or, with links to more original documents and news articles, at Jeffrey Wigand’s Web site. The CBS “60 Minutes” interview with Wigand, which never aired, revealed that Big Tobacco was aware of the addictive, harmful qualities of cigarettes and had deliberately worked to make cigarettes even more addictive. In the film, Richard Scruggs was portrayed by actor Colm Feore.

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