Friday, April 11, 2008

Crooked Lawyers Caught!


When insurers and brokers step out of line, Congress always rushes to probe the business, vows to pass sweeping reforms, and threatens to revoke the industry's cherished federal antitrust exemption. Funny, but I don’t sense similar outrage when high-profile plaintiff attorneys are caught corrupting the judicial system they are sworn to serve.

Indeed, despite the outrageous criminal misbehavior of two of the profession's most potent litigators, I don't see Congress rushing to investigate misdeeds by the plaintiffs bar, or pontificating about the need for direct federal oversight.

I imagine Congress is averting its gaze because just about all of our legislators are members of the bar themselves. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, right?

Still, you’ve got to be appalled at the chutzpah of two of the most notorious lawyers in the business.

First, trial attorney extraordinaire Dickie Scruggs pleaded guilty to bribing a judge. (His son followed suit soon after.) Meanwhile, another king of class actions, Melvyn I. Weiss, copped a plea for his role in a scam to drum up plaintiffs.

The Scruggs case struck close to home for the insurance industry, as the bribery took place in a legal battle among plaintiff attorneys over $26.5 million in contingency fees from a Hurricane Katrina-related claim settlement with State Farm.

Mr. Scruggs simply got greedy, preferring to assure his firm's piece of an already fat pie by paying off the judge. He of all people should respect the integrity of the civil justice system.

As for Mr. Weiss, he pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge, for which he’ll pay a $10 million fine and accept a jail sentence of up to 33 months for his illegal plaintiff recruitment activities in connection with hundreds of class-action lawsuits.

“This kickback scheme lasted for more than 25 years and had a severely detrimental effect on the administration of justice across the nation as lies were routinely made to judges,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien in Los Angeles. “The scheme was based in greed, and it affected the integrity of the courts and the interests of an untold number of absent class members.”

Of course—as I noted when New York’s former crusading attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, had to resign as governor following a prostitution scandal—self-inflicted wounds like these destroying the industry’s harshest foes doesn't mean insurers or brokers weren't guilty of the blatant bid-rigging, book-cooking and contingency fee abuse they were caught committing.

But it must feel good among the vast majority of those who conduct business honestly and honorably in the insurance community to see the shoe on the other foot for a change.

In fact, it would feel even better if Congress was as indignant about the misdeeds of these officers of the court as they were about insurance industry wrongdoing.

As far as I understand the system, lawyers are state-licensed. Perhaps the feds should take over, if the states are not up to the job of policing their renegade lawyers! (Or shall we have an optional federal charter for attorneys?)

Yet all we get out of Washington in the wake of these despicable falls from grace is deafening silence.

At least these cases prove that no matter how rich and powerful the attorney, no one is above the law. Hopefully, this will discourage other plaintiff lawyers from going rogue and abusing the judicial system.

As the TV cop Tony Baretta used to lecture those he busted, “don't do the crime if you can't do the time.”

Sam Friedman is NU’s Editor-In-Chief. To respond to his column, e-mail, or go to his blog at

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Re: Illegal Operations of Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company

John B. Thompson, Attorney at Law
1172 S. Dixie Hwy., Suite 111
Coral Gables, Florida 33146

April 8, 2008

The Honorable Alex Sink
Chief Financial Officer
Department of Financial Services, State of Florida
200 East Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0300

Re: Illegal Operations of Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company

Dear Ms. Sink:

Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company provides malpractice insurance coverage to Florida lawyers. As you may know, it was created by The Florida Bar.

There is no problem with FLMIC’s stated function. What it actually provides, however, amounts to protection of lawyers guilty of ethics breaches from appropriate discipline by The Florida Bar. Its policyholders are not just buying malpractice insurance; they are buying discipline protection, much as businesses, historically, have purchased “protection” from the Mafia.

That is one side of FLMIC’s illegal activity, one side of the tarnished coin. The other side of the coin is that those who do not purchase liability insurance from FLMIC are more likely to be disciplined by The Florida Bar. We have data to support all this.

This illicit commercial tying arrangement by which what is purported to be a governmental regulatory function of the practice of law to the purchase of an insurance product clearly violates a) federal anti-trust laws, b) federal and state anti-racketeering laws regarding extortion, fraud, and other predicate RICO acts c) federal mail fraud laws, d) state and federal fraud laws, and e) obstruction of justice laws.

FMLIC helps accomplish its ends illegally by having the executive director of The Bar and two Bar Governors sit on its board, along with a former president of The Bar. It is beyond unseemly that Bar officials who owe a strict fiduciary duty to Bar members would even think of sitting on an insurance company’s board of directors that must assess claims against lawyers against whom disciplinary charges may have been brought. No Bar official in his or her right mind would fail to see the conflict. In point of fact, these people serve in both capacities because of the conflict of interest, and it appears, based upon the data that we have that these conflicts are bearing fruit to the advantage of FLMIC and its policyholders.

When I informed The Bar and the Florida Supreme Court of this illegal activity involving FLMIC and my concerns about it, the Florida Supreme Court entered an order on February 19 as retribution for my whistleblowing. This Supreme Court order in and of itself violates Florida Statute 768.295, as the State may not punish a citizen for whistleblowing. One would think Supreme Court Justices would know that. Thus, we have the highest court in the state involved directly in this illegal enterprise by being willing participants in a knowing cover-up re whistleblowing at to FLMIC.

I and other plaintiffs—lay citizens as well as lawyers--intend to bring a civil action this week arising out of FLMIC’s illegal activities. We will be applying to the court for certification of it as a class action.

We thought you should know of this because of your duties to oversee the insurance industry in this state. Relatedly, FLMIC is using its illegal ties to the judicial branch of this state, through The Bar, in a fashion that improperly works to the considerable commercial disadvantage other insurance companies that provide liability insurance to lawyers in our state.

We shall be informing these other insurance carriers that this scam is occurring in our state, and that we have informed you of it.

We would very much like to tell these companies that the State’s CFO is on top of this outrageous situation and part of the solution. Please advise.

Regards, Jack Thompson

Copies: Florida Supreme Court
The Florida Bar and Its Governors
Various insurance carriers

Re: Criminal Conspiracy to Violate Federal Civil Rights and Anti-Racketeering Laws

John B. Thompson, Attorney at Law
1172 S. Dixie Hwy., Suite 111
Coral Gables, Florida 33146

April 9, 2008

The Honorable Gregory Robert Miller
US Attorney, Northern District of Florida
111 N. Adams Street, 4th Floor
Tallahassee, FL 32301 Via Fax to 850-942-9577

The Honorable Robert E. O'Neill
US Attorney, Middle District of Florida
400 North Tampa Street, Suite 3200
Tampa, FL 33602 Via Fax to 813-274-6246

The Honorable R. Alexander Acosta
US Attorney, Southern District of Florida
99 NE 4th Street
Miami, FL 33132 Via Fax to 305-530-7087

Re: Criminal Conspiracy to Violate Federal Civil Rights and Anti-Racketeering Laws

Dear Mr. Miller, Mr. O’Neill, and Mr. Acosta:

I wrote you thirty days ago and under oath informed each of you of an ongoing criminal conspiracy by certain state officials to violate not just my civil rights but the rights of others. As you recall, I signed the letter to each of you under oath.

Since then, The Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court have proven the validity of my letter and the request I made of each of you.

The Supreme Court has now retaliated against my lawyer by initiating lunacy proceedings against him with an order it entered April 2. Prior to that, The Florida Bar stole his medical records in order to try to intimidate him from representing me. The Supreme Court, the day after it entered the April 2 order against my attorney who assisted me at my Bar trial, entered an order prohibiting me from representing myself, which order violates my Sixth Amendment right to represent myself, as enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Faretta.

The Court is telling me that I, a lawyer of 31 years in continuous good standing with The Bar, rated A/V by Martindale, and someone who secured a number of historic firsts, can represent clients but not myself. Maybe the Justices are the ones in need of a psychiatric intervention.

On April 7, just this week, my Comcast e-mail account was “hacked,” and it appears to me and to others that the culprit was The Florida Bar. The Bar had previously intercepted, it appears, an electronic communication between me and my lawyer. If so, both instances constitute a serious federal crime.

Gentlemen, when did the State of Florida become the gulag Archipelago? The President of The Florida Bar, Frank Angones, who claims he was part of the Pedro Pan airlift out of Castro’s Cuba, has knowingly approved The Bar’s use of phony lunacy proceedings to intimidate critics. The above-noted April 2 order secured by The Bar is just the latest event that shows The Bar and the Court have adopted the shrink-our-critics methods of Fidel Castro. There are multiple victims of this criminal use of lunacy proceedings against lawyers who are willing to talk to the FBI. I have their names. They want to talk to the FBI.

The Bar did this to me as well, threatening me with a mandatory mental health examination to try to coerce my compliance with The Bar. One of The Bar’s own experts is a forensic psychologist who has told The Bar this was outrageous and meritless.

Bar Governor Ben Kuehne, who is under indictment by the US Justice Department, is involved in this criminal conspiracy. He transferred money to my Bar referee on the same day that a Bar prosecutor did the same thing. When I sought federal relief in U.S. District Court here in the Southern District for The Bar’s excesses, Miami lawyer Steve Chaykin increased twelve-fold the punishment The Bar sought. Such retribution is itself a federal crime, and Chaykin should be charged. I’m sure Bill Sadowki would have been proud of Comrade Chaykin.

Despite your forwarding this matter, Mr. Acosta, to the FBI, the FBI has done nothing and refuses to talk to me.

With all respect, either the FBI takes this seriously—the computer hacking, the criminal use of lunacy proceedings, the whole nine yards of Castro’s dump truck of tricks—or I and others will do what we need to do.

Mr. Acosta, the last time this flared up, the FBI did open a criminal investigation, headed by FBI Agent Swinerton, and you let it be shut down apparently by political friends of President Bush inconvenienced by the investigation. I know you have been reading my e-mails updating you on this criminal activity. I have your e-mail receipts proving that you have read them.

Regards, Jack Thompson

Copy: United States Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee