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CL – Judge under panel’s...

CL – Judge under panel’s scrutiny

By: Magnolia Tribune - January 27, 2008

Judge under panel’s scrutiny

The state Commission on Judicial Performance is examining the allegation DeLaughter e-mailed a rough draft of his order in an attorneys’ fees dispute to his former boss, former long-time Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, who allegedly pocketed $1 million in return for influencing the judge to rule in Scruggs’ favor in that case.

Clarksdale lawyer Charlie Merkel, whose client was suing Scruggs, said he’s not surprised the commission is investigating because under the judicial code of conduct, judges are prohibited from talking with one party about the case’s merits without telling the other parties, with few exceptions.

“It’s been a common practice in some parts of Mississippi that if you have a certain judge, then the defense is going to hire a good ol’ boy lawyer in hopes of influencing the judge,” Merkel said. “But when you pay somebody, (and) he’s not a counsel of record, and nobody knows he’s there, working behind the scenes, trying to influence the judge – that’s despicable.”

DeLaughter could not be reached and did not return repeated calls. He has insisted he is not guilty and is cooperating with authorities: “I know I didn’t take a bribe.”

Peters also could not be reached for comment.

Clarion Ledger

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This article was produced by Magnolia Tribune staff.