James W. Parkman III (born 1950 in Mobile) is a lead attorney for The Cochran Firm and a founding partner in the firm of Parkman, Adams & White. He is best-known for his succesful defense of HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy on charges stemming from the HealthSouth accounting scandal.
Parkman's father owned an ice cream company in Dothan. He made poor grades in high school and attended Marion Military Institute before enrolling at the University of Alabama. He left school and spent six years in the National Guard before returning to college. He earned his bachelor of science in business administration from Alabama in 1974. He worked for a few years working at the First National Bank of Dothan (which has since been acquired by SouthTrust).
Later, after taking a few law classes in Atlanta, he was accepted to the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, where he graduated with honors in 1979. He began practicing in Dothan. He was admitted to the United States District Court for the Middle District later that year, then to the Eleventh Circuit in 1982.
While his Dothan practice was successful, Parkman was not well known, except for bringing suit against the Houston County Sheriff's Office alleging Civil Rights violations in the firing of several deputies who had been fired. He won their jobs back.
He became a national figure when he was brought onto the team representing HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy. Scrushy was charged with 85 counts of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2003. He had been invited to join the defense from the beginning, but it was not until Scrushy offered him the role of lead counsel (replacing New Yorker Abbe Lowell) in September 2004 that Parkman accepted the job.
Parkman's strategy was to portray HealthSouth's other executives as a group of dishonest schemers that perpetrated the massive fraud without Scrushy's knowledge or consent. He famously cross-examined Aaron Beam, HealthSouth's former chief financial officer, in order to establish a pattern of dishonesty among Scrushy's underlings.
Scrushy's acquittal surprised many and earned enormous respect for Parkman as a trial attorney. In February 2006 he accepted an invitation to join the national Cochran Firm, founded by Johnny Cochran, and has served as counsel in several high profile cases for that firm around the country while still based in Dothan. He opened his own Birmingham firm with partners William White and Richard Adams in August 2006. The firm also employs criminal-defense attorneys in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, and Jackson, Mississippi.
Parkman and his fourth wife, Joy, have a son who was born in 2002.
- Fournier, Rosalind (May 2007) "Big Fish." Birmingham Magazine. Vol. 47, No. 5, pp. 160-3.
- Davidson, Laurence Viele (January 27, 2005) "HealthSouth's Scrushy Bets Freedom and Fortune on 'Hick' Lawyer." Bloomberg.com news - accessed June 18, 2007