Perhaps the biggest legal development of the year in Mississippi happened today during what is usually the quietest weeks of the year for lawyers and the judiciary.
Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Yerger unsealed an opinion today dismissing Eaton Corporation’s case against Frisby due to Eaton’s hiring Ed Peters to improperly influence Judge Bobby DeLaughter in the case.
Eaton has a market cap. of over $17 billion, is in the S&P 500 and has over 70,000 employees.
Judge Yerger’s opinion states that Eaton in-house counsel were aware of Ed Peters’ improper ex parte contacts with Judge DeLaughter. The opinion also refers to evidence that suggests that Eaton’s general counsel was aware of the scheme to improperly influence Judge DeLaughter.
Judge Yeger’s opinion included the following findings:
- Eaton and its counsel intentionally hid Peters’ involvement from defendants despite knowledge that Peters was communicating with DeLaughter about the case.
- Eaton Vice President and Chief Counsel Vic Leo sent an email to other Eaton lawyers including General Counsel Mark McGuire that stated that Peters "intends to speak with Court Administrator and the Judge about the trial date. This may take some finessing."
- The same e-mail stated that Peters forecast that the chances of Eaton winning a particular ruling were 100% [note: nothing is 100% in litigation].
- In another email Leo told McGuire that Peters had taken DeLaughter’s temperature on a meeting about the possible recusal of Judge Tom Lee in the Frisby criminal trial.
- Eaton’s corporate office and Wisconsin counsel were aware of Peters’ improper actions. [Note: by this point in the case I believe that Eaton’s Mississippi counsel were former Mississippi Supreme Court Justices Reuben Anderson and Fred Banks. I know they took over the representation at some point. Eaton’s lead counsel were in Wisconsin. Anderson and Banks have not been implicated to date in Peters’ misconduct. They may have had a ceremonial local counsel role in the case. I believe that Mike Allred represented Eaton when Eaton hired Peters].
- Eaton and its counsel were aware of and sanctioned Peters’ clandestine actions.
- Eaton "turned Peters loose" to "play fast and loose" with the judicial system without ever appearing in the case [note: this means that Frisby was unaware that Peters was behind the scenes sinking its case.].
- Eaton’s counsel failed to present a plausible explanation for their complacency with Peters’ conduct.
- Eaton and its counsel knew of the serious improprieties occurring and stood by with blind eyes.
Judge Yerger determined that in order to protect the integrity of the judicial system it was necessary to dismiss Eaton’s case with prejudice. A billion dollar trade secrets case has been dismissed due to successful efforts to improperly influence a judge.
The fallout from Scruggs-gate grows. This is another case where but for Tim Balducci getting caught attempting to bribe Judge Henry Lackey, there would have been a serious miscarriage of justice due to blatant cheating.
Ed Peters remains the Teflon Man, having received immunity from the DOJ.
For earlier posts on the case go here.