Posts Tagged ‘Dickie Scruggs’

New Yorker tempts with open archives

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

I love the New Yorker like an addict loves his drug. But I had to go cold turkey. You should have seen me, back when I was subscriber, traveling to work and home, through airports, at the dentist office, in a canoe always with a stack of wrinkled magazines with pages folded over and scribbles in the margins. In the world of Twitter, the long style articles demanded time and with great elation I would finish a magazine and leave it for someone else to pick up and enjoy. (The first time is free.)

But then life and work happened and I’d get behind. It would take me two weeks to get through an issue, then three weeks, meanwhile they kept coming. Every week a new issue. My stack was growing. The burden of it all; my arms grew weary carrying them. I was taking other important items (like my computer) out of my briefcase to hold them all. I couldn’t just throw them away because they are too good. I might miss one of those fantastic articles, the kind that only appeared, well, in every single issue.

I didn’t renew my subscription. Eventually, I read and disposed of each one.

Now this.

The New Yorker has put their archives online for free. Fortunately for me, only for a few months before it goes behind a paywall. Slate had a piece on 30 stories you must read before the pay wall goes up.

I dare not reenter the world of addiction and begin picking my own must read stories; but, there were two that came to mind I thought I’d share.

The Giveaway: Who was the mysterious man donating all the valuable art (August 26, 2013)

A fascinating story about an artist from Laurel who donated fine art all across the country with one problem, the art was all fraudulent. Fraudulent in the sense that they were not by the artists he claimed them to be, but rather, his own created work. But he didn’t sell them; he didn’t take tax write-offs for the gifts. In short, he didn’t break the law; he just fooled a lot of museums. One man discovered it and even put on an exhibit of many of the pieces titled “Faux Real.”

The Bribe: How the Mississippi lawyer who brought down Big Tobacco overstepped (May 19, 2008)

This piece digs into the roots of Dickie Scruggs and recounts in detail the timeline of events leading to his downfall. There have been many books written on the subject, but for those who missed this a few years ago, it’s a good read.

For some shorter reads you might take a look at

The Faulkner Files which includes an excerpt of his letter-to-the-editor to the people of Oxford considering a ban on beer;

A Murder in Deep Summer about Eudora Welty, her writing and civil rights;

Visiting Preacher Killen in which Jeffrey Goldberg recounts his run-in with the man who orchestrated the killing of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia;

An interview with Mississippi’s most recent Pulitzer Prize winning poet: The Exchange: Natasha Trethewey;

And you can take a trip to Greenville in this piece: Tamales on the Delta.

You’ve got a couple of months to pour through the archives of the New Yorker. But be careful, it is habit forming. Read at your own risk.

InJustice producer: “I don’t come up with solutions. I bring awareness”

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Last week I wrote about the film “InJustice: A Film About Greed & Corruption in America’s Lawsuit Industry” which interviewed a number of Mississippians and featured the wrongdoings of other Mississippians. The film was screened in Jackson, Mississippi as part of a nationwide tour. Here is a quick video recap of the reactions.

As a follow up to my column (read here: ‘InJustice’ and state’s trial lawyers) I was able to sit down with Brian Kelly, the film’s producer, before the screening.

Kelly’s background includes 27 years in network filmmaking including senior roles at Discovery and Investigation Discovery. What peaked his interest in this subject was an article from Reader’s Digest on the silicosis case thrown out of court in Texas when Judge Janice Jack determined many of the medical records were falsified. Kelly said the article provided a great outline for a film including trial transcripts and story action.

Kelly explored that case along with Milberg Weiss scandal involving among others William Lerach and Mel Weiss, and of course in Mississippi the Scruggs Scandal. Of Lerach, Weiss and Scruggs, Kelly said, “The film is not meant to bash lawyers…[these lawyers] had one thing in common when we finished the film, they were all in jail.”

With the Scruggs Scandal, Kelly said what bothered him the most was how attorney Johnny Jones described the Scruggs legal strategy as a stool with three legs: politics, public relations and the law. He said when looking at how politics and public relations played into the cases he thought, “Wait. Isn’t this supposed to be about justice?”

He said the film cut a lot of “man on the street” interviews for time sake, but generally the response was “that’s just lawyers; that’s what they do.” He said that apathy is troubling and it is difficult for anyone or any business to do the right thing if they’re afraid of getting sued by lawyers who use the law as a club and a threat.

That fear of uncertainty extends beyond big companies, and the apathy in the average citizen toward certainty in the law diminishes confidence in the legal system.

Kelly asked, “If you’re IBM and you can’t get justice, how can a single mom going into court in Jackson, Mississippi get justice?”

Kelly said the film is about abuse in the legal system by specific individuals and does not deal with policy issues. “I’m a film maker. I don’t come up with solutions. I bring awareness,” Kelly said. He said if the film somehow makes things better, that’s a great thing. But it doesn’t keep him up at night trying to change the world because that isn’t his job: “I doubt I’m going to change policy. State legislators: that’s their job.”

As to a follow up film on legal abuses, Kelly said there is a great appetite for more, “I feel like there’s another movie ready to be made.” But he wouldn’t elaborate on his next project, he said, until it has the green light for production.

Kelly said his favorite part of this project is connecting with the viewers. In television, his feedback essentially was make a show, get the ratings, make another show. Now he gets direct interaction from e-mail and social media, as well as in the screening tour questions and answers and watching an audience react.

As to suggestions that this film is an answer to the movie “Hot Coffee” he said he was unaware of that production until after he had finished “InJustice.” He said sometimes people are better able to dismiss a film they don’t like if they label it. So some people call this a “tort reform” film and put it in that box so they don’t have to confront it.

But you can confront it anytime you want, now, even if you missed the screening. The film is available for purchase as a digital download ($4.95) or DVD ($13.20).

RR: “Kings of Tort” documents fall of Scruggs, Minor

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

The forthcoming book “Kings of Tort” by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson is a “must-read” for anyone interested in Mississippi legal and judicial politics.  Here is an excerpt from my column this week, but to get the meat you have to read the full thing at the Madison County Journal: Perry / ‘Kings of Tort’ document downfall

And to get the real meat, you have to read the book.

“I’ll take care of it.” Those five words from Dickie Scruggs sealed his fate, and begin chapter one of “Kings of Tort: The true story of Dickie Scruggs, Paul Minor, and two decades of political and legal manipulation in Mississippi.” Captivated, I read it in two sittings.

This book by Jackson businessman and Y’all Politics publisher Alan Lange, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Dawson, starts with all the nervous intrigue, betrayal, and corruption of a John Grisham thriller.

Another book about the downfall of tort titan Dickie Scruggs is forthcoming from acclaimed retired journalist Curtis Wilkie, Associate Professor at the University of Mississippi. “Fall of the House of Zeus” benefits from interviews with Dickie and Zach Scruggs denied to Dawson and Lange. Wilkie acknowledges a friendship with Scruggs.

Lange and Dawson will be launching a book tour on December 2 at the Pinnacle Building in downtown Jackson from 5:30pm to 8:30pm, sponsored by Lemuria Books. They will address the Stennis-Capitol Press Corps noon luncheon on December 7 at the University Club, also in downtown Jackson. More information about the book, and all the documents cited in the book, can be viewed online at

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