Embarking on an 11-year federal prison sentence, trial lawyer Paul Minor is on his way to losing his license to practice and is preparing to fork over a few million dollars in fines and restitution.
But his sentencing Friday before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate could be just the beginning of another legal battle for him from behind bars.
Minor was accused of bribing former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel in exchange for favorable decisions. The three were convicted earlier this year.
Their indictment was based on a handful of cases before the judges.
One of those cases involved a Maryland-based insurance company on the losing side of a $1.5 million settlement with one of Minor’s clients.
U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Co. went up against Minor in 1998 when his client, Peoples Bank in Biloxi, sued the insurance company in Chancery Court over covering a legal defense. The case was ultimately transferred to Teel.
But when Minor was later charged with winning cases through bribes, the insurance company fought back by suing Minor, Teel and the bank. The 2003 suit has been on hold pending the outcome of sentencing in the criminal trial.
“We expect that our civil action will proceed, and we will continue to pursue claims for damages that are contained in the complaint,” Steve Montagnet, one of the Jackson attorneys for USF&G, said after Friday’s sentencing.
Cy Faneca, Minor’s attorney in the civil case, said he would be reviewing Friday’s developments to determine their bearing on the lawsuit.
All that came after Minor lost his Ocean Springs home to Hurricane Katrina and saw his wife battle cancer. Some trouble he brought on himself, including a DUI arrest which got him thrown in jail.
Friday’s sentencing will now trigger a complaint from the Mississippi Bar to the state Supreme Court. The court will immediately suspend Minor and eventually disbar him. He likely will lose his license to practice forever unless his conviction is overturned on appeal.