World Com. Mississippians watched the national corporate accounting scandals from a painful front row seat as local corporate superstar Bernie Ebbers fell from grace: convicted of fraud, conspiracy and filing false documents and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.

Now we watch another Mississippi titan undone by greed. We know first hand about Dickie Scruggs just like we did about Ebbers. The Court sentenced Scruggs to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine (plus incarceration costs) for his role in attempting to corruptly influence a Mississippi circuit judge.

If Scruggs is the World Com of the legal world, then Bill Lerach is the Enron.

Last month, what remains of Lerach's uber-law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach agreed to pay $75 million to avoid indictments in the case that put Lerach and three other top partners in federal prison.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien announced the firm's plea that admitted secret kickbacks in more than 165 lawsuits involving $239 million in legal fees over two decades. The firm acknowledged its now former partners engaged in a conspiracy "including obstructing justice, perjury, briber and fraud" to make and pay others to make "false and misleading statements in documents and in under-oath depositions" and to pay "kickbacks to several stockbrokers in exchange for referring clients who would serve as plaintiffs."

The firm's founding partner Mel Weiss, called by the New York Times "the King of Torts", paid a penalty of $250,000, forfeited $9.7 million, and was sentenced to 30 months. Lerach, who ironically represented lawsuits against Enron, forfeited $7.7 million with 24 months in prison.

With World Com and Enron, the press, public, and Republican Congress determined these crimes were not isolated incidents but indicative of a larger culture of corruption. Do the actions of attorneys like Scruggs and Lerach suggest their industry practices permeate the trial bar?

On June 11, 2002, Scruggs spoke at a Prudential Financial Research conference at a forum titled "Asbestos for Lunch," saying, "the biggest threat to you right now, is what I call the 'magic jurisdiction,' or jurisdictions where the judiciary is elected with verdict money. The trial lawyers have established relationships with the judges that are elected; they're State Court judges; they're populous. They've got large populations of voters who are in on the deal, they're getting their place in many cases. And so, it's a political force in their jurisdiction, and it's almost impossible to get a fair trial if you're a defendant in some of these places. The plaintiff lawyer walks in there and writes the number on the blackboard, and the first juror meets the last one coming out the door with that amount of money....The cases are not won in the courtroom. They're won on the back roads long before the case goes to trial. Any lawyer fresh out of law school can walk in there and win the case, so it doesn't matter what the evidence or the law is. The jury is going to come back with a large number and the judge is going to let it go to the jury, often on punitive damages."

More recently, when Scruggs pleaded guilty in the bribery scandal that shook Mississippi, he told the Court all he wanted to do was "earwig the judge" but "the earwigging idea was not originated by me or anyone in our firm, although we went along with it." Earwigging, an attempt to influence a judge in private conversation, is prohibited in Mississippi courts. Yet one wonders how insidious the practice of earwigging is in the "magic jurisdictions" where judges "elected with verdict money" make their decisions "on the back roads" not the courtroom.

In this month's issue of Conde Nast Portfolio, Lerach pens a column titled "I Am Guilty" in which Lerach what the federal government calls a kickback scheme Lerach describes as "lawyers' fees shared with plaintiffs." He said of his illegal activities, "The conduct was industry practice."

With corrupt attorneys creating and exploiting magic jurisdictions, earwigging judges, and providing kickbacks to clients to file lawsuits, it is no wonder Republicans have called for a congressional investigation into widespread corrupt practices by the trial bar.

Republicans House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Representative Lamar Smith of Texas sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan, saying, "The United States Congress has an obligation to take action - by holding hearings to determine the extent of the trial lawyer scandal and the threat to our economy, identifying appropriate legislative remedies, and sending them to the President without delay....The Republican-led Congress responded aggressively to the Enron and WorldCom scandals earlier this decade. Now the Democrat-led Congress needs to do its job..."

To date, the Democrats have not acted against their trial lawyer allies despite their 2006 pledge to fight the culture of corruption. Reflecting on the words of Scruggs associate Timothy Balducci to Judge Henry Lackey, how many buried bodies must be uncovered before Congress takes appropriate action?

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at