Unsealed Suit Reveals Diaz Suing Lampton


Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz spoke at a forum on political prosecutions last week.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge James C. Sumner signed a June 22 order denying a motion to seal a suit against former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz and his wife Jennifer, bringing to light the continuing saga of a federal court battle between Diaz and former U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton.

Lampton filed a June 11 motion to seal the suit on behalf of his cousin Leslie Lampton, who is looking to duck testimony on his alleged involvement in the sharing of Diaz' tax information with members of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.

The issue arises from Lampton's botched prosecution of Diaz for bribery and then tax evasion in 2005 and 2006. Diaz was acquitted of bribery because he did not preside over any of the co-defendant's cases that were the focal point of the bribery charges. Lampton, bent on prosecuting Diaz for something, then attempted to charge him with tax evasion, even though Diaz said he and his wife had cleared up the tax issue prior to Lampton's indictment. The jury agreed, and again found Diaz not guilty. Jennifer Diaz, however, pleaded guilty during the heat of the trial after prosecutors warned her that she could lose custody of her children if she were found guilty by a jury. Unlike her husband, a standing judge on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Jennifer Diaz had less to lose in taking a guilty plea, and fell on the sword, according to her husband, for the sake of the kids.

Copies of Diaz's tax returns—the product of federal subpoenas in Lampton's 2006 tax evasion case—wound up in the hands of the state ethics oversight body in 2006, mere weeks after Diaz' acquittal.

Leslie Lampton served as a layperson on the commission at the time that it received the tax records, making him a suspect in the illegal transfer of the federally subpoenaed information to the commission. Slated to hold a slot on the commission until 2012, Lampton resigned months after Diaz filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service about the unauthorized disclosure of his tax records.

Kevin Watson, Leslie Lampton's attorney, told Raw Story that Lampton did not retire because of Diaz' complaint: "He is 84 years old. He's given enough of himself," Watson said, and played down his client's connection to his cousin, Dunn Lampton.

Diaz and his wife hired former Supreme Court Justice Chuck McRae, now a Jackson attorney, to represent their suit against Leslie Lampton for illegally sharing their tax records for a commission investigation (which never panned out to a commission decision against Diaz).

Leslie Lampton responded to the suit in January by seeking declaratory judgment from Madison County Circuit Court for his immunity from the suit, as well as "all costs and fees associated with filing" his defense argument.

Watson—who initially played down the Lampton's connection, telling Raw Story that the two were "cousins four times removed and through adoption" and that they have "no long-standing relationshipԗnow argues that Leslie Lampton "enjoys complete and absolute immunity for any conduct arising out of the performance of his official duties with the Commission," and that likewise Lampton "enjoys complete and absolute immunity from any suit under 42 USC §1918 and other federal statutes" because he was "acting in his capacity with the commission, (which is) a quasi-judicial agency performing function similar to those of judges and prosecutors."

Nevertheless, McRae is plowing ahead with a list of interrogatories for information relevant to the suit, as well as a list of 42 requested admissions from Leslie Lampton, including:

• Admissions that he had procured Diaz' banking, business and income tax records with the intention of destroying Diaz and assisting Dunn Lampton "in reaching the outcome he desired through the prosecution of the judicial performance complaint against Diaz";
• That Lampton had ex parte communications with others regarding Diaz while the subject of a judicial performance complaint against him was pending before the commission—against the guidelines of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct;
• That Leslie Lampton communicated with his cousin about a judicial performance complaint both prior, during and following Dunn Lampton's federal complaint against Diaz;
• And that he helped Dunn Lampton file the Mississippi Judicial Performance Complaint against Diaz, despite warnings from MCJD Director Luther Brantley that he should not participate in commission matters filed by his relative.

McRae went on to subpoena Brantley for pertinent information he had on the case. Brantley responded with his own protective order. Madison County Circuit Court declared the case under seal and granted Lampton and Brantley's motion's for protective orders.

Dunn Lampton, who announced his retirement from the U.S. attorney's office last year, is a third party in the suit, and moved the suit to federal court on June 3, where Sumner promptly removed the lower court's rule to seal the suit, releasing the particulars of the case to the public.


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