Miss. Bar seeks suspension of licenses of Minor, Whitfield

Published 4:06 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Mississippi Bar is seeking to have suspended the licenses of Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor and former Circuit Judge John H. Whitfield, while they appeal their federal convictions.

The Mississippi Supreme Court will consider the petitions during its January-February term.

The Bar filed the petitions in September, about five months after Minor, Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel were convicted of federal bribery charges.

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While a petition was filed against Teel, it is not among the cases listed by the Supreme Court for the January-February term.

The petitions are among dozens of cases the Supreme Court will hear during the term. The court will not hear oral arguments on the Bar’s petitions. It will instead rely on attorneys’ briefs to make its decision.

Minor was convicted of bribing Whitfield and Teel. Prosecutors said he bribed the judges in exchange for favorable rulings in case he had before them. Whitfield and Teel were convicted of taking the bribes and delivering the rulings.

Minor argued the money was only financial help for friends and he expected nothing in return.

All three have appealed their convictions 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 last month 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.