- “Dodd-Frank and The Regulatory Burden on Smaller Banks” [Todd Zywicki]
- Side-stepping Morrison: way found for foreign-cubed claims to get into federal court? [D&O Diary]
- “Alice in Wonderland Has Nothing on Section 518 of the New York General Business Law” [Eugene Volokh, swipe fees]
- “Financial Reform in 12 Minutes” [John Cochrane]
- Why the state-owned Bank of North Dakota isn’t a model for much of anything [Mark Calabria, New York Times “Room for Debate”]
- Regulated lenders have many reasons to watch SCOTUS’s upcoming Mount Holly case on housing disparate impact [Kevin Funnell]
- Cert petition: “Time to undo fraud-on-the-market presumption in securities class actions?” [Alison Frankel]
- Melissa Kite, columnist with Britain’s Spectator, writes about her low-speed car crash and its aftermath [first, second, third, fourth]
- NYT’s Nocera lauds Keystone pipeline, gets called “global warming denier” [NYTimes] More about foundations’ campaign to throttle Alberta tar sands [Coyote] Regulations mandating insurance “disclosures” provide another way for climate change activists to stir the pot [Insurance and Technology]
- “Cop spends weeks to trick an 18-year-old into possession and sale of a gram of pot” [Frauenfelder, BB]
- Federal Circuit model order, pilot program could show way to rein in patent e-discovery [Inside Counsel, Corporate Counsel] December Congressional hearing on discovery costs [Lawyers for Civil Justice]
- Trial lawyer group working with Senate campaigns in North Dakota, Nevada, Wisconsin, Hawaii [Rob Port via LNL] President of Houston Trial Lawyers Association makes U.S. Senate bid [Chron]
- Panel selection: “Jury strikes matter” [Ron Miller, Maryland Injury]
- Law-world summaries/Seventeen syllables long/@legal_haiku (& for a similar treatment of high court cases, check out @SupremeHaiku)
David Rossmiller at Insurance Coverage Blog (who’s also a co-blogger of mine at Point of Law) continues to be the must-read source on this sensational story and its fast-breaking developments. He’s posted a PDF of Jones v. Scruggs, the lawsuit before Judge Lackey by lawyers who say they were cut out of Katrina fees. He also offers some answers to the question posed by a commenter at Above the Law, who asks, “What kind of cheap-o offers a $40,000 bribe to resolve a dispute over $26.5 million in attorneys fees?!” (To begin with, the ruling sought from Judge Lackey would not have disposed of the fee claim, just sent it to arbitration.) Martin Grace scents a ripe irony in the fee-dispute lawsuit, noting that it charged Scruggs with engaging in the same sorts of tactics toward fellow lawyers that he regularly accused insurers of practicing toward their insureds: “lowballing claims and producing fake documents in support of the claims.”
Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft writes that Judge Lackey “presumably [agreed] to tape his calls with the defendants. I suspect the F.B.I. also got a wiretap on Scruggs’ or his co-defendants’ phones, since there are several calls described in the Indictment that don’t involve Judge Lackey. Getting a wiretap on a law firm’s telephone is unusual — particularly due to the substantial and cumbersome minimization efforts required to ensure that calls of clients and lawyers unrelated to the criminal investigation are not overheard.” At the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, columnist Sid Salter has more on co-defendants Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson. A PDF of the indictment is here.
The internal cohesion of the anti-insurer lawyer consortium known as the Scruggs Katrina Group (SKG) appears at present to be under extreme pressure. Rossmiller reports that “policyholder lawyers in general tell me they are seething over Scruggs” and in particular that at least some lawyers who have been his allies “don’t want their names and their cases tarnished with the Scruggs name”. On Thursday an extraordinary contretemps developed in which SKG co-founder Don Barrett of Lexington, Miss. sent a letter (PDF) to a judge hearing Katrina cases against State Farm, suggesting that SKG was being re-formed without Scruggs and would take over the litigation with he, Barrett, as lead counsel (Lattman, WSJ). Within hours, Scruggs had dispatched a letter of his own (PDF) saying that Barrett was misinformed, that it was up to plaintiff families to decide who they wanted to represent them, and that many would undoubtedly wish to retain Scruggs (second posts at Lattman and Rossmiller). As of Thursday evening, the Scruggs Katrina Group website has prominently posted the Scruggs letter but not the Barrett one; one might speculate that if some sort of split within SKG is imminent, the website operation, at least, may have maintained loyalty to the Scruggs side.
On the statewide political repercussions, see Majority in Mississippi, Sid Salter at the Clarion-Ledger, and Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing, who also quotes Salter in a comment thread predicting: “The next sob story will be that Dickie’s indictment is about Bush administration persecution of trial lawyers and a rehash of Paul Minor’s problems.” Take it away, Adam Cohen and Scott Horton!
On political repercussions nationally, it didn’t take long for the Hillary Clinton campaign to cancel the Scruggs-hosted fundraiser that was to have been headlined by husband Bill Clinton next month (Associated Press, WSJ Washington Wire). The North Dakota political blog Say Anything thinks politicos in that state should return the (rather substantial) sums they have received from Scruggs and colleagues, but one may reasonably assume that such calls will be ignored, just as elected officials have been in no hurry to divest themselves of the booty collected from such figures as felon/mega-donor William Lerach.
Where are Scruggs’s admirers and defenders? One can only suppose that somber music is playing in the corridors at the business section of the New York Times, which has run one moistly admiring profile of the Mississippi attorney after another in the past couple of years. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, the Times’s very restrained story on the indictment was in a suitably inconspicuous position on the paper’s online business page — the 15th highest story in the left column, in fact. The story, by serial Scruggs profiler Joseph B. Treaster, quotes the relatively ambiguous line attributed to defendant Timothy Balducci — “All is done, all is handled and all went well.” — but omits the far more smoking-gunnish “We paid for this ruling; let’s be sure it says what we want it to say.” And things are anything but upbeat at Mother Jones, where Stephanie Mencimer concedes that she finds the indictment “pretty damning“.
More links: Paul Kiel, TPM Muckraker (indictment “devastating… it doesn’t look good for Scruggs”); Legal Schnauzer (defender of Paul Minor distinguishes the two cases); WSJ interview with Judge Lackey (sub-only) and editorial (free link), Rossmiller Friday morning post (certain details in indictment suggest that a conspiracy insider, possibly Balducci, may have cooperated with prosecutors)(& welcome Instapundit, Point of Law, TortsProf, Adler @ Volokh, Open Market, Y’allPolitics, Majority in Mississippi, Rossmiller readers).
Now it’s California legislators: “California residents who sell goods on eBay could have to pay a $295 fee and be regulated in the same way as pawnbrokers under legislation designed to crack down on the sale of stolen property.” Opponents say the bill would drive out of business thousands of antique dealers and consignment shops, as well as eBay sellers and the dropoff shops and sellers’ agents that work with them. Pawnbrokers, who are pushing the legislation, say that state law already requires that sales of secondhand goods be reported to local law enforcement, but that the law has gone unenforced against everyone but themselves. In recent years influential Sacramento legislators, including Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), have unsuccessfully proposed measures to require secondhand sellers to report transactions to a state law enforcement database, which is the pawnbrokers’ key demand. (Greg Lucas, “Pawnbrokers try, try and try again”, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 25). We earlier discussed proposals for licensing of eBay sellers in Ohio (Mar. 21, 2005) and North Dakota (Oct. 13, 2005).
First it was Ohio contemplating a requirement that people get an auctioneer’s license before selling goods on eBay (Mar. 21). Now it’s North Dakota, which is considering whether to force small consignment merchants like Mark Nichols to take instruction in talking rapidly and interpreting hand gestures before listing merchandise for others on the online service. (Dale Wetzel, “Internet sellers may need auctioneer license”, AP/Bismarck Tribune, Oct. 10).