Thursday, February 11, 2010
Judge Lackey a true American hero
My how time flies. Was it really 12 years ago that I wrote the following words in my column?
The average Mississippi voter would be appalled if an attorney could pay a judge cash for a favorable verdict, but that’s what is happening.
Why did Dick Scruggs donate $5,123 dollars to a judge two months after the election was over?
If you had to defend yourself against Scruggs and went before that judge, would you be worried about getting a fair hearing?
Scruggs will receive nearly a billion dollars in legal fees over the tobacco suit. These other attorneys will receive tens of millions - perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars apiece.
It is worrisome to think of how much influence these plaintiffs attorneys can wield with a billion dollar tobacco war chest.
Some of my best friends are attorneys and they are likewise appalled at what’s happening. But an elite group of rogue plaintiffs attorneys are too rich and powerful to be stopped by the Mississippi Bar. It is up to the citizens to stop them.
The essence of the problem is the infusion of big-time money into our judicial system. Too many attorneys are enriched by the system. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
We must put a stop to jackpot justice. Not only does it cost us all hundreds, if not thousands, in higher insurance and prices, but more importantly, it undermines the legitimacy of our legal system and our government as a whole.
Growing old has its drawbacks, but one positive aspect is the opportunity to see things come full circle.
While the national and state media were treating Scruggs and company as national heroes for taking down Big Tobacco, I was warning that our judicial system was being corrupted by an unprecedented amount of money.
I wrote dozens of editorials, appeared on “60 Minutes,” and was sued for billions by big-time plaintiffs attorneys trying to intimidate me. It was not an easy time. In the end, the Mississippi Legislature passed the fairest tort reform laws in the nation.
As I talked with Mississippi Judge Henry Lackey at the Kings of Tort book signing, I realized a truism about our great country. In the end, it comes down to good people doing the right thing in tough situations. Judge Lackey is one of those people.
I asked Judge Lackey if there was any doubt about what to do. He answered without hesitation. No doubt whatsoever. The minute he realized what was happening, he knew what he had to do.
At first, Lackey didn’t realize he was being bribed. He kept wondering about strange turns of phrases coming from Tim Balducci, the young attorney who was instructed by Dickie Scruggs to bribe the judge.
Then one day, he made the realization. He was being solicited for a bribe. As the solicitations became more direct, there was no more doubt.
Lackey was hesitant to approach state officials even though this was a state court and a state matter. Scruggs’ tentacles run deep. That alone should send a shudder through the hearts of all Mississippi citizens who believe in free and honest government. So Lackey went to the feds.
It wasn’t easy for Lackey. The feds asked him to wear a wire. Lackey was so stressed over one recording session that his pacemaker went off as soon as Balducci left the room. The incident sent the judge to the hospital.
During remarks at the Kings of Tort book signing, authors Alan Lange and Tom Dawson both called Judge Lackey a true American hero. He is.
I had a bad feeling when I started reading reports of record cold coming to Jackson. I feared an ice storm with no electricity. When the ice storm passed, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Too soon.
Admittedly, no water is much better than no electricity, but the lack of any utility can really disrupt normal life.
Fortunately, we had water at work, so we could transport it in the big containers we use for our office water cooler. Even better, we had an occasional dribble, which allowed us to fill up a bathtub.
You can brush your teeth with bottled water. You can skip a shower and sponge bathe. But you must eventually flush the toilets. This is a water intensive task.
At the height of our household crisis, General Wyatt Emmerich issued a family edict. Only I would be allowed to flush - when the time was appropriate.
The next morning, groggy Lawrence woke up, went to the bathroom and, of course, flushed as normal. This initiated a drill sergeant like tongue lashing from his very irate dad who proceeded to lecture the whole family on the importance of following instructions.
As I hurriedly grabbed my keys to rush off to work, I noticed a handwritten note on my table from son John. It read, “Seven deadly sins! Envy, gluttony, lust, greed, pride, sloth and ANGER!”
I then realized that it was me who hadn’t been following instructions. And the instructions I had failed to follow were far more significant than a flush. To further humble me, I woke up groggy the next morning and absent-mindedly flushed. My hypocritical indiscretion did not escape the attention of my family, to put it mildly.
Please remember to pray for the people of Haiti. And donate generously.
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