Former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy, the codefendant in Don Siegelman's criminal case, has been brought to Birmingham from a Texas federal prison for a civil trial that is scheduled to begin today.
Alarmingly, the case will be overseen by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Allwin Horn. As we have shown from firsthand experience, Horn is one stinker of a judge.
The trial is the latest chapter in a case styled Tucker v. Scrushy, which started in 2002 when HealthSouth shareholder Wade Tucker filed a derivative claim on behalf of the company in state court.
This case is separate from an ongoing federal lawsuit, which has seen some $500 million of settlements and features Rob Riley (son of Alabama GOP Governor Bob Riley) as a front-and-center attorney.
Horn has overseen the state lawsuit since its inception, so it looks like the judge will have one last hurrah before he retires on June 1. The Birmingham News reports that it will be a bench trial, at the agreement of both sides, so the whole enchilada is in Horn's lap.
That's a scary thought based on what I've seen of Horn. I wouldn't trust him to run a corner lemonade stand.
Remember, Horn is the judge who was too lazy to look up the actual law in my legal malpractice case against Birmingham attorney Richard Poff. Horn said that if I didn't like the way he ruled, "you can appeal me," never mind the taxpayer dollars that would be wasted on an issue that didn't need to be appealed.
To top it off, Horn showed that he was too lazy to read documents that had been put under his nose, and he couldn't even manage to follow his own orders. Horn ordered Poff to present a certified copy of his bankruptcy case to prove that I had not been included as a creditor in that case. That, of course, was unnecessary because Poff had already admitted in documents submitted to Horn that I wasn't listed as a creditor in the bankruptcy case.
Then when Poff failed to appear for a hearing in Horn's office, and failed to produce the documents he had been ordered to produce, Horn let him get away with it and dismissed my case--even though, by law, it could not be dismissed.
The law in my legal-malpractice case could not have been more clear or more easy to follow. Horn insisted that I had to go to bankruptcy court and get permission to proceed with my legal-malpractice claim in state court. But Poff had not included me as a creditor in his bankruptcy case, so I had no standing to do anything in that court.
In fact, as we showed in a post about one year ago, Horn stood the actual law on its head. The controlling case law can be found at Watson v. Parker (264 B.R., 685, 2001). Under Watson, the burden was on Poff, not me, to reopen his case in bankruptcy court if he wanted to try to have my claim discharged. If Poff didn't do that, under the law, my case was to proceed in state court.
I don't know who is right and who is wrong in the Tucker vs. Scrushy lawsuit. It seems clear a major financial scandal took place at HealthSouth, and Scrushy may or may not have been in the middle of it. But I don't like the chances of justice being served with Allwin Horn at the controls.
And I also get alarmed when I see lawyers swarming like locusts around a case that is generating millions of dollars in legal fees. It makes me wonder if the case has become a money grab, with little concern for facts, law, justice and other such minor concerns.
The Tucker vs. Scrushy lawsuit will involve tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of dollars. And yet Allwin Horn--who we have shown is lazy, ignorant, corrupt, or some combination of all three--will run the show from the bench.
Just how much money is at stake in Tucker v. Scrushy? Jimmy DeButts, of the Birmingham Business Journal, recently reported that two firms were splitting $26.2 million in legal fees from the case. I suspect many lawyers and judges will commit all kinds of legal atrocities in a mad scramble for that kind of cash.
Here is something to ponder: Horn is a corrupt Republican, and his successor will be appointed by our corrupt Republican governor, Bob Riley. Riley's son, Homewood attorney Rob Riley, plays a leading role in the HealthSouth litigation in federal court, representing plaintiffs against Scrushy and other individuals/entities.
(Rob Riley, by the way, has extensive connections to UAB, which just happened to unlawfully terminate yours truly not long after I had written a post about Riley's numerous conflicts of interest in the HealthSouth lawsuit. Much more on that coming up.)
Scrushy was Don Siegelman's codefendant in a criminal case, and Bob Riley was one of Siegelman's chief political adversaries.
And get this: Birmingham lawyer and former U.S. attorney Doug Jones was serving on Siegelman's defense team while also representing plaintiffs in the HealthSouth civil case in federal court. Guess who later would join Jones on the plaintiffs' side, against HealthSouth and Siegelman codefendant Scrushy? None other than Rob Riley.
Jones, who is known as a Democrat, supposedly had Siegelman's best interests at heart. But how could he fully represent Siegelman in a criminal case while going after Siegelman's codefendant in a civil case? And how could he have full loyalty to Siegelman and then side with Rob Riley, the son of Siegelman's chief adversary, in a civil case involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
Would Doug Jones (or Rob Riley, for that matter) recognize a conflict of interest if it fell out of the sky and landed in his lap? Much more is coming about "Me and Mr. Jones." On an Alabama listserv, "we've had a thing going on." And it reveals a lot about where Doug Jones' motivations and loyalties might lie.
But back to Allwin Horn and the Tucker v. Scrushy lawsuit in state court. Is the deck stacked against Scrushy? Sure looks like it.
What are the chances that Scrushy will get a fair hearing in a trial run by Allwin Horn? Not very good, I would say.