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Published on Jan 7, 2010
Kings of Tort chronicles the sordid tale of judicial bribery and political intrigue in Mississippi, birthplace of the tobacco litigation and long known as one of the most tort-friendly jurisdictions in the nation. It features the story of Dickie Scruggs, who was largely credited with bringing down Big Tobacco in the early 1990s. From his ascent to a net worth of nearly a billion dollars to his seemingly unfathomable downfall stemming from his role in improperly influencing two local judges to influence cases involving fee disputes with other lawyers, the book documents how those in Scruggss own trusted circle of tort barons turned on him and cooperated with federal authorities. It also shows the political influence he wielded with judges, attorneys general, and even his own brother-in-law, former US Senator Trent Lott.
The Dickie Scruggs judicial bribery case has been covered extensively by the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the LA Times, the Clarion Ledger, the Sun Herald and dozens of Mississippi and national media outlets. Scruggss story during his meteoric ascent through the Big Tobacco litigation was documented on PBS Frontline, 20/20, and 60 Minutes. Eventually, the 60 Minutes story became the subject of a movie called The Insider featuring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.
The book also chronicles the legal bribery story of Scruggs confidante and tobacco lawsuit partner Paul Minor, son of notable political columnist Bill Minor. He was convicted, along with the two judges he improperly influenced, and is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence. Minor is currently fighting his conviction on appeal from prison through his attorney Abbe Lowell, who defended former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial.
Kings of Tort is an engaging read that examines the power of these tort barons and the unmistakable pattern of how corporate defendants were trapped in what Scruggs called "magic jurisdictions" and subject to coordinated political, criminal and civil pressure to produce enormous settlements. It's a must read for those interested in the legal profession, politics or just a fascinating human story of greed and hubris.