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Lawyer in Bribery Case Says Witness Lied
Legal News | 2008/03/04 03:22

A key government witness lied to the grand jury that indicted several attorneys on charges they conspired to bribe a state judge, one of the accused lawyers said in court papers filed Monday.

Zach Scruggs, an attorney whose well-known father and law partner also face bribery charges in the case, is asking a federal judge to dismiss his indictment due to alleged government misconduct.

Scruggs' lawyers say grand jurors heard false and misleading testimony from an FBI agent and from former attorney Timothy Balducci, who has already pleaded guilty to conspiring with Scruggs and others to bribe state Circuit Judge Henry Lackey.

Scruggs' indictment is a product of their "patently false and misleading" testimony, his lawyers argue.

"It has been clear since the filing of this indictment that the government has no credible evidence that (Zach Scruggs) knowingly participated in any scheme to bribe a judge," the defense lawyers wrote.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee didn't immediately return a call for comment Monday. Balducci has represented himself in the criminal matter. His office number has been disconnected.

A trial for Scruggs; his father, prominent plaintiffs lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs; and fellow Scruggs Law Firm attorney Sidney Backstrom, is scheduled to start March 31 in Oxford.

Richard Scruggs, a brother-in-law of former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., made tens of millions of dollars from tobacco and asbestos litigation. His role in a landmark settlement with tobacco companies was depicted in the 1999 film "The Insider," starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. rejected a different motion by the three defendants to dismiss the charges based on the government's "outrageous conduct." However, Zach Scruggs' attorneys didn't see transcripts of grand jury proceedings until last week.

Zach Scruggs claims the transcripts, when compared to wiretap evidence, show Balducci lied to the grand jury and mischaracterized Scruggs' knowledge of and participation in the alleged conspiracy.

Prosecutors say Balducci was acting on Richard Scruggs' behalf when he allegedly tried to bribe Lackey for a favorable ruling in a dispute with other lawyers over $26.5 million in fees from a mass settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance lawsuits.

The FBI arrested Balducci Nov. 1 and sent him into the Scruggs Law Firm wearing a body wire. Balducci later testified that he met with Zach Scruggs and Backstrom that day and told them Lackey wanted $10,000 for the favorable ruling.

However, Zach Scruggs' lawyers say a recording of that Nov. 1 conversation shows that Balducci used confusing, coded language while their client "only participated in an ordinary conversation about how a judge's order reads."

Zach Scruggs' lawyers also accuse FBI Special Agent William Delaney of giving grand jurors a misleading account of taped conversations between the suspects in the case.

"The Government seeks to convict (Scruggs) on coded words uttered after he is disengaged from a conversation and on actions perceived through a presumptuous lens; yet they indicted a man relying on testimony they knew was facially false and wholly inaccurate," they wrote.



Supreme Court May Re-examine What Is "Indecent"
Legal News | 2008/03/04 03:21

This week, after more than 30 years, the Supreme Court may reopen the debate over what constitutes an "indecent" broadcast. The issue before the court is the usually accidental, so-called "fleeting expletive" that sneaks into an over-the-air broadcast, such as Bono's "This is really, really f---ing brilliant" comment at the 2003 Golden Globes, which was broadcast on NBC.

After receiving complaints from viewers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to crack down on broadcasters who air "isolated or fleeting expletives" during daytime and early evening hours. Last year, Fox and other television networks sued to block the new policy, and an appeals court in New York put it on hold. Now, the FCC is asking the Supreme court to clear the way for the crackdown to be enforced. The justices may act on the agency's appeal as soon as today, and if they vote to hear FCC vs. Fox TV, arguments will be heard in the fall, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The appellate judges in New York felt that the FCC's new policy was arbitrary and vague, as it does not specify that all expletives will trigger fines regardless of the circumstances. At the same time, the appellate judges hinted that a true ban on all broadcast expletives would violate the 1st Amendment's free-speech guarantee. At the same time, broadcasters have said they have no desire to air expletives, but they're just trying to make sure that when an unscripted expletive is used - most often by a celebrity who is not a network employee - it does not result in a large fine. To help monitor the situation, broadcasters have instituted five-second delays on awards shows and some other live programming, but an occasional expletive can still slip through.

"It's like the Maytag repairman," said Rick Cotton, general counsel for NBC Universal, according to the LA Times. "You're expecting that after sitting in front of a console for literally thousands of hours that at a particular moment, on a completely unexpected basis, a person will hear it and will react in time."



U.S. court rules against Bayer's Yasmin patent
Legal PR | 2008/03/04 03:20

A U.S. district court ruled against the validity of Bayer Schering Pharma's patent for its contraceptive drug Yasmin, the German drug company said late on Monday.

This was the result of a patent challenge by generic manufacturer Barr Laboratories, Bayer said in a statement.

"Bayer disagrees with the court's decision and will consider its legal options in this regard," the company added.

Bayer Schering's contraceptive drug Yasmin has annual sales of more than one billion euros. Sales of Yasmin in the United States came in at 321 million euros ($486.9 million) last year, it said.



Court Leaves Diabetes Drug Case Intact
Court Line | 2008/03/04 03:19

A divided Supreme Court is leaving intact a ruling favoring people who sued a pharmaceutical company, saying they had been harmed by a drug to combat diabetes.

The dispute stems from several suits against Warner-Lambert over its diabetes drug Rezulin. Warner-Lambert is now owned by Pfizer. The Supreme Court split 4-4 in the case, with Chief Justice John Roberts not participating.

The users of the drug are relying on a Michigan law to allege that the pharmaceutical company engaged in fraud by misleading federal regulators to get the drug approved. The Michigan law shields pharmaceutical companies from product liability lawsuits, unless they committed fraud.

At issue in the case is whether that fraud exception, which allows lawsuits to proceed, is pre-empted by federal regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the exception to the Michigan law was not pre-empted by federal regulations, enabling the plaintiffs to pursue the case.

Twenty-seven Michigan residents say they suffered personal injuries caused by Rezulin, a drug that federal regulators approved despite risks to the liver and cardiovascular system.



Campton Hills pays $124,000 to lawyers
Legal Focuses | 2008/03/03 20:42

Campton Hills leaders are attempting to catch up on the village's mounting legal bills.

Village board members Tuesday voted 4 to 0 to pay Chicago-area legal firm Arnstein & Lehr LLP nearly $124,000 for services dating from July to November. Trustees Bern Bertsche and Al Lenkaitis were absent.

While there is currently enough money in municipal coffers to square up the latest bill, Village Treasurer Kathy Catalano said officials might soon need to dig into contingency funds earmarked for budget overruns.

Legal expenses are expected to only mount as the village wages ongoing legal battles with several groups of property owners who are trying to detach their land from the new municipality.

The latest bill is in addition to a roughly $50,000 tab the village paid off around the beginning of the year.

"I'd prefer it wasn't that much," Village President Patsy Smith said Tuesday. "But that's the cost of starting a new village when you're being challenged legally."

Village Attorney Bill Braithwaite has said his firm attempted to help the village by delaying invoices until the municipality, which incorporated after a referendum last April, began receiving state-shared revenue.

Catalano said while "there have been some invoices lagging because of this," the money is finally arriving.

"We've got the ability to pay these bills," she said.

No one at Tuesday's meeting addressed when to expect legal bills from November through today or how much they will be.



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