Okay, here goes for my summary:
On July 25th, 2003, five citizens of Mississippi were indicted by a federal grand jury on sixteen counts. Here is the breakdown of the people and their alleged crimes:
Paul S. Minor, charged with bribery, fraud, and racketeering, and a conspiracy to deprive the citizens of the state of Mississippi of a fair judiciary. He loaned money and guaranteed loans to: John H. Whitfield, at the time a circuit judge; Oliver and Jennifer Diaz, when Oliver Diaz was sitting on the Court of Appeals and Jennifer Diaz was struggling to maintain her business; Walter W. "Wes" Teel, at the time a chancery judge.
The full indictments can be read here.
These are the five indicted conspirators:
Paul S. Minor is one of the most successful of Mississippi trial lawyers. He has made a mint off of tobacco and asbestos lawsuits. His father is famed Mississippi journalist Bill Minor. Paul Minor was sanctioned earlier this year when he personally went into a K-Mart and raided the cash registers to collect on a judgment.
Oliver Diaz was one of the youngest judges to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court. He was a member of the Mississippi Court of Appeals, and before that a rising star in the Mississippi Republican party. A smart, personable, and handsome man in his forties, Diaz has shown a tendency to be more and more plaintiff oriented since he hit the bench.
Jennifer Diaz was married to Oliver Diaz from 1988 to 2002. She runs a bed and breakfast in Biloxi, Mississippi, which has recently been effectively put out of business by the city council in what essentially amounts to a bill of attainder against her business. Her bed and breakfast, Green Oaks, LLC, is on sale for 3.5 million dollars.
John H. Whitfield was among the more forgettable of Mississippi's allegedly corrupt judges. His notoriety came from awarding big judgments to Paul Minor.
Wes Teel was among the most notorious of Mississippi's allegedly corrupt judges. He was, by all reports (including the indictment), cheaply bought.
Representing these stellar exemplars of the Mississippi legal community are the following lawyers: Brad Pigott and Robert McDuff are defending Oliver Diaz; Jim Neal and Abbe Lowell are representing Minor; Albert Necaise is representing Wes Teel; Michael Crosby is representing John Whitfield; and Jim Kitchens is representing Jennifer Diaz.
I've pointed to this article before, but Jerry Mitchell dissects the indictment and pulls out the meat.
The Clarion Ledger reports
on the Dickie Scruggs funded loans.
The Clarion Ledger also offers this report
concerning our wonderful chief justice, Napoleon himself, Ed Pittman. Pittman is hated and feared by many, and despised by even more. Several sources report that Pittman keeps an enemies file much like Richard M. Nixon did. Pittman has lately been pushing through several rules changes that he has publicly admitted are to form his legacy. Some of these rules, including the rule on cameras in the courtroom (which was officially and actually drafted by Justice Waller's chambers, at Pittman's instigation), are poorly drafted, filled with loopholes, and otherwise make no sense. Pittman has become a Warren Burger figure, and the Court's collegiality has essentially disintegrated under him, with associate justices taking shots at Pittman in public fora, and the Chief responding equally publicly.
Finally, those of you who saw The Insider
by Michael Mann may recall two other Mississippi figures involved in the tobacco litigation: Dickie Scruggs and Mike Moore, attorney general for the Magnolia State. Where are they in all this?
Well, Dickie Scruggs very publicly testified before the federal grand jury that was investigating this matter. Mike Moore, his good friend, picked Dickie up from the Jackson airport (where Dickie flew in on his private plane) and drove Dickie to the Eastland Court House in Jackson just in time for Dickie to testify. Mike Moore said that he routinely assists federal investigations by making sure that witnesses get to the courthouse on time. He said this through the window of his 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee while wearing one of his many 2500 dollar suits.
Dickie has repeatedly said that he is not a subject of the investigation, even though he has been identified as intermediary #2 in the indictment. Smart money says that Dickie pulled an Ollie North, and testified on a grant of transactional immunity. Transactional immunity means that whatever you testify about, you are immune from. I wouldn't be surprised if he admitted to cheating on the spelling bee back in the fifth grade.
There's the summary, filled with both fact and vitriol. I'll be keeping you posted, fair readers.
And thanks to Professor Eugene Volokh for suggesting I summarize. I hope this summary is up to snuff.