What do two former plaintiff-friendly Supreme Court justices defeated for re-election do in retirement? They proceed to sue one of the wealthiest businessmen in Mississippi.

That is the story Tom Freeland, an Oxford attorney and one of the leading bloggers in the state on legal and judicial issues, broke on his website NMissCommentor.com on Tuesday.

Oliver Diaz and his wife Jennifer retained Chuck McRae to sue Leslie Lampton of Madison County.

Diaz and McRae are former Supreme Court Justices. Freeland writes Lampton "is on the Forbes list of the richest men in the world - Forbes clocks his wealth in around $2 billion, placing him at 239 on the list of 400 richest Americans."

Lampton served on the Mississippi Judicial Performance Commission, which had occasions to recommend suspension for Diaz and publically censure McRae.

Lampton's cousin - Dunn Lampton - recently retired as U.S. Attorney for Mississippi's Southern District where he prosecuted both Oliver and Jennifer Diaz, as well as uber-trial lawyer Paul Minor and state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.

A jury convicted Minor, Teel and Whitfield on judicial corruption charges. Jennifer Diaz pleaded guilty to a tax evasion charge (her defense attorney, Jim Kitchens, last year was himself elected to the Mississippi Supreme Court). The jury proclaimed Oliver Diaz not guilty both for judicial corruption and tax evasion.

In letters to Leslie Lampton on behalf of his clients the Diazes, McRae accuses Lampton of "involvement and procurement of [their] banking and income tax records...abuse of process, conspiracy...misprison, tort of outrage" as well as "invasion of privacy" and "using [Jennifer's] private records to bring charges against her husband in order to get him removed from office and destroy their family life, and conspiring with others to get then Justice Diaz removed from office" and other allegations.

Lampton filed a "Complaint for Declaratory Judgment" claiming anything he did or did not do in his capacity as a member of the Judicial Performance Commission provides him with "complete and absolute immunity" against those complaints.

McRae also seeks to depose Luther "Brant" Brantley, Executive Director of the Judicial Performance Commission, and obtain confidential records and documents from the Commission. Brantley, who is retiring from the Commission at the end of this month, has served for nearly three decades as the state's chief judicial watchdog. Brantley filed a protective order against the Diazes in this case stating his belief the deposition was "solely for the purpose of annoyance and harassment of the Commission and its Executive Director" and noting Diaz sought additional information on "other Commission members who are not litigants in this proceeding" and other documents "confidential in nature."

This feud between Diaz and his investigators is just the latest chapter in a public legal saga beginning with allegations Minor sought to corrupt Diaz and other judges through gifts of loans and services like providing Diaz a rent-free condominium. (While Dickie Scruggs reportedly served as an intermediary for Minor in this case, and he co-owned the condominium with Minor where Diaz lived gratis, he avoided prosecution and served as a cooperating witness. Scruggs is now serving a prison sentence for an unrelated judicial corruption matter in which he apparently is now again a cooperating witness.)

During the investigations, the Judicial Performance Commission recommended a temporary suspension of Diaz from the Court. Diaz had already sought and received a leave of absence. Diaz was found not guilty on the Minor related investigations and returned to the Court.

One of Diaz's defenses in the Minor case was the charges were not federal crimes, but at worst only state misdemeanor campaign finance violations. If so, he may be habitual in those failures. Tuesday, the Secretary of State's Office confirmed Diaz has yet to file his January 9, 2009 campaign finance report from his unsuccessful Mississippi Supreme Court reelection last year. It is more than 160 days late and involves tens of thousands of dollars. In 2004, Attorney General Jim Hood prosecuted Jeremy Martin, a 25-year-old teacher who challenged then Representative Jamie Franks (D-Mooreville) and failed to report contributions less than $2500 within 48 hours of receiving them. I don't suspect Hood will do the same to Diaz.

Most recently, Chancery Judge Larry Buffington ordered the Simpson County Board of Supervisors to hire Diaz as public youth defender. Buffington described Diaz as a friend whom he offered the job so Diaz would be eligible for state retirement. Ironically, the Judicial Performance Commission has now subpoenaed materials related to Buffington's actions in response to the press reporting on that appointment.

The salary for a public youth defender does not pay much, so Diaz will continue his fight with the Lamptons just where it has been for the past few years: in court rooms and judicial chambers with reputations and finances at stake. And whether for fun or for fee, McRae is looking for a piece as well.

Brian Perry, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.