Ex-Judge Testifies He Felt Pressure To Help Minor With Case

A former chancery judge has testified that he felt pressured to help Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor with one of his cases because of Minor's help with getting an appointment to the bench.

Ex-Judge J.N. Randall testified for the second day Tuesday in the federal bribery trial of Minor, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield. They have pleaded innocent to the charges.

Randall testified that he felt he owed his 1991 appointment to the bench in large part to Minor's help.

In 1998, Minor filed a case in Randall's court. Minor's client, The Peoples Bank, was suing an insurer, USF&G, over failure to pay a claim.

Randall said chancery court - which usually handles divorces, estates and property disputes - was the wrong place for the case, so he transferred it to Circuit Court, but Minor wanted the case brought back before Randall. Randall testified that he managed to get the case returned to him.

"I was put under pressure,'' Randall told a federal jury hearing the case in Jackson, "because then it was evident to me that Paul Minor was asking for a political favor ... I didn't want that case. It was a political problem for me.''

Randall was granted immunity from prosecution for his November 2002 grand jury testimony and continuing cooperation in the case.

Randall's testimony Tuesday centered on Minor's bank case and how it was handled. He said he eventually turned it over to Teel because Teel was the hardest-working judge on the court and would render a fair decision.

Teel ruled in favor of Minor's client, the bank, but Randall said the ruling mirrored a federal court decision in a similar case.

After the ruling, USF&G agreed to pay the bank a $1.5 million settlement, and $400,000 of that went to Minor's firm.

"Judge Teel did nothing wrong, did he?'' asked Teel's attorney, George Lucas.

Randall said, "A judge has a lot of power, but they can't make you settle cases.''

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)