State High Court Asked To Rule On Law Licenses Of Suspended Attorneys

The Mississippi Supreme Court has been asked to suspend the law license of prominent Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor, who was convicted last year of bribing two judges, pending his appeal of his federal conviction.  At the same time, the Mississippi Bar also has asked the Supreme Court to suspend the licenses of former Judges John H. Whitfield and Wes Teel, who were convicted along with Minor.

However, the petition against Teel, filed by the Bar on Sept, 26 with those against Minor and Whitfield, was left off the Supreme Court's calendar for the January-February term. No explanation was given.  The petitions are among dozens of cases the Supreme Court will hear during the January-February term. The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments on the Bar's petitions. It will instead rely on attorneys' briefs to make its decision.   Whitfield and Teel reported to federal prison on Dec. 27.

The two former Harrison County judges were convicted in March 2007 on bribery and mail fraud charges.   Whitfield and Teel have appealed their sentences, as has Minor, to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. No hearing date has been set.   Minor, who made a fortune in lawsuits against tobacco, asbestos and other companies, is already serving an 11-year sentence in a federal prison in Pensacola, Fla.  Prosecutors say Minor, 61, orchestrated a complicated scheme in which he guaranteed loans for the judges, then used cash and third parties in an attempt to conceal the fact that Minor paid off the loans. The judges were convicted of giving Minor's clients favorable rulings in civil cases in exchange for the money.       Teel, a 57-year-old former chancery judge, reported to a minimum security federal prison camp in Atlanta to begin a nearly six-year sentence.

Whitfield, a 45-year-old former circuit judge, reported to the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Ky., Truman said. It was not clear from what medical condition Whitfield suffers.   Minor acknowledged lending them money, but said it was only financial help for friends and he expected nothing in return.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)