The "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters were rebuffed today in their appeal of a December 2006 preliminary injunction by federal district court Judge William Acker, who had ordered them to return thousands of pages of claims files they took from a E.A. Renfroe, a State Farm contractor. The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Acker’s injunction in an opinion that, as these things go, was bluntly worded in places. Most judicial opinions are not blunt and judges are usually quite gentle in saying why they prefer one argument over another — however, they do not like their time to be wasted. So when judges openly label an argument "illogical," as happened in this opinion, they really didn’t think much of it at all. Read a pdf of the opinion, and you will note that the Eleventh Circuit had little patience for this appeal.
A couple things to remember here. One, the standard of review here is abuse of the judge’s discretion, a pretty hard standard to meet on appeal. This standard presumes the judge at Ground Zero is in the best position to make the call. Second, although Dickie Scruggs claims an attorney-client relationship with the Rigsby sisters, neither he nor his firm are representing them as defense counsel in Renfroe’s lawsuit against the Rigsbies or this appeal (some write "Rigsbys," but I don’t agree that is the correct plural). Third, Scruggs is in hot water because of an alleged willful violation of the injunction — Acker appointed special prosecutors who have filed charges of criminal contempt against Scruggs and his firm — so if the appellate court had found the injunction was an abuse of discretion, it could have provided hope to Scruggs. However, I’m not sure at all that would have meant he gets a free pass here. Again, I’m not a specialist on criminal law, I’ll have to wait for the new season of Boston Legal and see if this issue comes up and how they deal with it.
Fourth, the Renfroe lawsuit against the sisters goes on — the basis is their alleged violation of their confidentiality agreement, a fairly standard thing in the industry (confidentiality agreements are standard, I mean, not violations). Fifth, I keep putting "whistleblower" in quotes because I’m still waiting for someone to explain exactly what they blew the whistle on. Just because you call yourself the Green Lantern doesn’t mean I have to. I know, I know, fraudulent practices and blah blah blah, but there’s more talk than action here, and so far, these documents sound like a lot of sound and fury signifying, well, you know the rest of the quote.