Once upon a time — say, around summer 1997, three years or so into Alwyn Luckey’s and William Roberts Wilson’s fee-dispute lawsuits against Dickie in Mississippi circuit court — Wilson’s lawyer Vicki Slater hit upon the “constructive trust” theory upon which Plaintiffs asserted a claim to the asbestos-settlement fees that, they argued, should have gone to them instead funding the tobacco litigation. Wilson also argued he was entitled to a part of the tobacco fees as result of Dickie’s commandeering his asbestos fees to fund the tobacco litigation.
But every time Team Wilson-Luckey asked anything about tobacco in discovery, Team Scruggs instructed the witnesses to say nothing, alleging that the case was about asbestos fees and had nothing to do with tobacco. When Wilson-Luckey tried to get rulings on Scruggs’s discovery objections, just getting a hearing-date set would usually take four to six months.
And when they did finally get a hearing, Judge Breland Hilburn would state his opinion but not write an order, leaving it up to the lawyers to agree on what it should contain. But Team Scruggs would never agree to anything. So then they’d end up needing another dang hearing to argue what the order was supposed to say.
Finally, in 2000 Judge Hilburn sua sponte (”all on his own,” without anyone’s asking him to) sent out a letter opinion disallowing any discovery whatsoever about tobacco. (Opinions in letter form are quite unusual; one lawyer I asked about them has never encountered one in 25 years of practice.)
So Wilson-Luckey took the matter to federal court in Texarkana (with Wilson as plaintiff, Luckey as intervening co-plaintiff), helped through the door there in part because Dickie got tobacco money in Texas’s settlement, too.
Well, plaintiffs’ making this move to the Texarkana court (David Folsom, J.) sent Dickie howling back to Judge Hilburn, who immediately — in the middle of an October 2001 night, with no secretarial help — banged out an order granting summary judgment to disallow the tobacco issues. But the thing had so many misspellings and convoluted sentences (in triple-spaced lines), it looked downright silly (three-page pdf).