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“Over the past four decades no reporter has critiqued the American South with such evocative sensitivity and bedrock honesty as Curtis Wilkie.”
The Fall of the House of Zeus tells the story of Dickie Scruggs, arguably the most successful plaintiff's lawyer in America. A brother-in-law of Trent Lott, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Scruggs made a fortune taking on mass tort lawsuits against “Big Tobacco” and the asbestos industries. He was hailed by Newsweek as a latter day Robin Hood, and portrayed in the movie, The Insider, as a dapper aviator-lawyer. Scruggs’ legal triumphs rewarded him lavishly, and his success emboldened both his career maneuvering and his influence in Southern politics--but at a terrible cost, culminating in his spectacular fall, when he was convicted for conspiring to bribe a Mississippi state judge.
Based on extensive interviews, transcripts, and FBI recordings never made public, The Fall of the House of Zeus exposes the dark side of Southern and Washington legal games and power politics: the swirl of fixed cases, blocked investigations, judicial tampering, and a zealous prosecution that would eventually ensnare not only Scruggs but his own son, Zach, in the midst of their struggle with insurance companies over Hurricane Katrina damages. In gripping detail, Curtis Wilkie crafts an authentic legal thriller propelled by a “welter of betrayals and personal hatreds,” providing large supporting parts for Trent Lott and Jim Biden, brother of then-Senator Joe, and cameos by John McCain, Al Gore, and other DC insiders and influence peddlers.
Above all, we get to see how and why the mighty fail and fall, a story as gripping and timeless as a Greek tragedy.
Former Boston Globe reporter and Mississippian Wilkie charts the meteoric career of lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs in this riveting if labyrinthine account that in Wilkie's telling, involves treachery, professional jealousy, and zealous prosecution. Known as the "King of Torts," Scruggs had made a fortune with class action lawsuits involving asbestos claims in Pascagoula, Miss., and then tobacco lawsuits in the mid-1990s. But with fame and fortune came enemies in the small Mississippi world of law and politics, and also contact with what Scruggs once dubbed "the dark side of the Force," people who carried out business best done behind the scenes. In 2007, while handling a Katrina victims' class action suit against insurers, Scruggs and his associates asked someone to approach a judge in a case filed against Scruggs by a disgruntled former colleague. The intermediary offered the judge money. Scruggs himself was eventually indicted on bribery charges and after a contentious federal investigation pleaded guilty; he's serving a five-year sentence. Wilkie (Dixie) carefully tracks the maneuverings of Scruggs and his associates and enemies in a remarkable illustration of how far the mighty can fall.