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2 Lawyers Quit High-Profile Bribery Case

  Law Center  -   POSTED: 2008/01/10 10:07

Two members of a law firm that was searched by federal agents last month have resigned as defense attorneys in the high-profile bribery case involving wealthy lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs. Now a third lawyer in the case is asking to do the same.

U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers on Tuesday granted the request by Joey Langston and Billy Quin of the Langston Law Firm to withdraw as attorneys for Scruggs, according to court records filed Tuesday in federal court in Oxford.

Scruggs, his son Zach and three others were indicted Nov. 28 on charges they conspired to bribe a judge in a case involving disputed fees related to lawsuits from Hurricane Katrina.

On Wednesday, Anthony Farese, an attorney for Zach Scruggs, also asked to withdraw from the case. He said in court papers that Zach Scruggs has "terminated his services" and intends to hire a new lawyer.

Biggers declined the request because the younger Scruggs has not yet named a replacement for Farese.

The elder Scruggs, a brother-in-law of former Sen. Trent Lott, is best known for making millions from tobacco litigation.

One of Langston's former law partners, Timothy Balducci, pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to conspiracy in the bribery case and is helping investigators. He had been one of those indicted along with Scruggs and his son.

On Dec. 10, the FBI searched the Langston Law Firm. FBI officials would not say what they were looking for, but Farese said at the time that they took records from cases that Balducci had worked on before he left the firm.

Quin and Langston did not respond to several messages left Tuesday by The Associated Press. John Keker, another attorney for the elder Scruggs, would not comment on why the two would no longer be working on the case.

In a separate case, a judge ruled Wednesday that an insurance company can question Richard and Zach Scruggs about their handling of leaked documents in a Hurricane Katrina insurance case.

Richard Scruggs wore "two hats" as the employer and lawyer for two key witnesses in that case, U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. ruled.

After Hurricane Katrina, Scruggs announced that sisters Cori and Kerri Rigsby, former employees of a State Farm contractor, were helping him build cases against insurance companies over their handling of storm claims. The sisters gave him thousands of internal State Farm records.

Scruggs hired the Rigsby sisters as consultants for $150,000 a year and served as their lawyer. State Farm wants to know more about those relationships.

Scruggs has said the leaked records proved that State Farm fraudulently denied the claim of policyholders Thomas and Pamela McIntosh, whose Biloxi home was destroyed by the storm on Aug. 29, 2005.

Also on Wednesday, attorney Kenneth Coghlan notified Biggers that he intended to represent Richard Scruggs in the bribery case.

Biggers refused to allow Coghlan, however, because the attorney represented another defendant in the case — former state auditor Steven Patterson — before withdrawing last month.

Allowing Coghlan to represent Scruggs could be a conflict of interest if one defendant testifies against the other, Biggers said.


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