I grew up in a tough school with a lot of colorful characters who used a lot of colorful language, and consequently I have a wide repertoire of colorful expressions for a variety of situations in life, such as when stuff surprises or amazes me. For public consumption, though, I censor most of these and translate them into one of several stock phrases, such as Holy Cow! So in reading some depositions attached to the latest State Farm filings in Ex rel. Rigsby, the False Claims Act case where the Trailer Lawyers got kicked out, I had cause several times to say Holy Cow!
Now, I have seen for some time that the Rigsby Sisters’ story line that had been sold originally — "Hero Sisters Aid Crusading Lawyer Scruggs In Stopping Insurance Company Fraud" — was going to undergo a substantial makeover. This really didn’t require any great prescience, and the same observation could have been made by anyone who was paying a moderate degree of attention. Obviously, Dickie Scruggs has totally discredited himself, so the demand for the original story line is somewhere up there with the demand for salmonella-laced tomatoes and new chapters of the Milli Vanilli fan club. I mean, if someone was pitching this story to those two con men in The Producers today — the ones looking for the worst play possible to stage, one that was sure to bomb — they would pick the original Rigsby-Scruggs story over "Springtime for Hitler."
So let’s face it, we all knew a change had to come. The only question is how big the change would be. Well, the results from the precincts are beginning to come in, and it looks like the whole darn Rigsby story might come unglued like a letter held over a steaming tea kettle.
OK, but we don’t want to rush through all the details at once here. First, we may want to acknowledge that there were some ridiculous elements to the story from the beginning, stuff that just never did add up. I mean, it’s a little like the song "Hang Fire," by the Rolling Stones — I laugh every single time I think about this song, where the counterculture icon, party master Mick Jagger is berating his fellow Englishmen for being lazy slobs who won’t work for a living. (Although if you have ever seen Jagger in concert, you have to admit he is one hard working son of a gun — thus, the source of his irritation). Here’s one thing that stands out from this new brief, which talks about the Rigsbys’ conversations with two fellow workers at the E.A. Renfroe Co., Dana Lee and Tammy Hardison.
Sometime in March 2006, the Rigsbys told Ms. Lee that they were going to work for Dickie Scruggs by providing him with documents about his clients. (Lee Dp. at 59-60.) They tried to convince Ms. Lee and Ms. Hardison to assist them, saying: “You’ll be heroes. We are going to get a book deal. We’re going to make a movie. . . . We’re going to be famous.” (Lee Dp. at 63.)
When I’m reading this, I’m saying Holy Cow! to myself: Book deal? A movie? And I’m thinking: this is starting to read like a sequel to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Now there is so much good stuff here we could easily get ahead of ourselves, so we have to slow down a bit and talk just a little about what this brief is about. It’s part of the continuing fight over whether the Provost Umphrey firm can take the place of the disqualified Trailer Lawyers. We all know, of course, that for sheer hilarity no one can take the place of the Trailer Lawyers, so on that ground they are a poor substitute. I will grant you that there is a certain Dickensian cast to the firm name — Provost Umphrey. Sounds a bit like one of the great Dickens character names, like Uriah Heep (David Copperfield), Uncle Pumblechook (Great Expectations) , Mr. McChoakumchild (Hard Times) or Paul Sweedlepipe (Martin Chuzzlewit). But until I see evidence they’ve been in a trailer, I’m indifferent to whether they get to step into the case or not. Here’s a copy of the brief, by the way.
And the brief also contains this gem:
In fact, Ms. Lee and Ms. Hardison testified that they were at Cori Rigsby’s house in December 2005 and observed the Rigsbys watching the movie “The Insider,” a film based
upon Scruggs’ exploits in the tobacco litigation. While watching “The Insider,” the Rigsbys
were discussing who was going to play each of them in their future movie. (Lee Dp. at 71-72; Hardison Dp. at 40-41.)
A couple things about this passage are striking. First, the name "The Insider" takes on new meaning with Dickie Scruggs soon to go inside a federal prison. Second, December 2005 is before the Rigsbys acknowledge hooking up with Scruggs — but about the same time he went to then-Insurance Commissioner George Dale with a demand for Dale to support him in his quest to become a Katrina Czar overseeing a half-a-billion dollar fund he proposed to wring out of State Farm through the use of State Farm "insiders." Third, if this is true — and I have no idea whether it is or not, I merely note the implications of the new testimony — it means the Rigsbys’ testimony about the timeline of their involvement with Scruggs is inaccurate. Fourth, what actresses did they want to play them? We don’t learn this essential fact. UPDATE: A reader points out below in the comments that, in one of the depositions, Kerri Rigsby wanted Sandra Bullock to portray her in the movie. Bullock is a fine actress, although I’m not sure she’s demonstrated the range to depict the Machievellianism suggested by the depositions. I mean, Kerri comes across in these depos as a cross between Ma Barker and Lucrezia Borgia. I make no representation as to the accuracy of this testimony, I merely comment as to its appearance.
Another interesting passage suggests Cori Rigsby had to be talked into participation in The Katrina Follies by her sister, Kerri, and mother, Pat Lobrano:
Indeed, it now appears that Cori Rigsby was initially a reluctant participant. (Lee Dp. at 59-60; Hardison Dp. at 36-37.) The fact that she had to be convinced by her sister and mother to join forces with Scruggs evidences her awareness that what she was being asked to do was improper. [This next part originally was in a footnote to the preceding paragraph]. In contrast, Kerri and her mother appear to have immediately enjoyed the “cloak and dagger” aspect of Scruggs’ underhanded methods. (Hardison Dp. at 43-44.) For example, Ms. Lee and Ms. Hardison saw Kerri Rigsby again in May, 2006, when they traveled to Pensacola for Memorial Day weekend. (Lee Dp. at 77-78.) Ms. Rigsby told Ms. Lee that she could only stay for a couple of hours because she had received a call from Scruggs and had to take her computer to a hacker for Dickie. (Lee Dp. at 79; Hardison Dp. at 46-47.)
Everyone has been pretty patient so far, so let’s get to the depositions. Here is the deposition of Dana Lee, the one talked about in the brief. Some interesting things you will want to check out in it. One is the supposed "shopping trip" the Rigsbys took to Texas in late 2005, which I heard about some time ago and wrote about back in April, and which some believe was merely a cover story for meeting Scruggs there (in support of this theory, you might note that Scruggs has demonstrated a fondness for out-of-jurisdiction meetings with witnesses and "insiders" over the years).
Also, Lee testifies to Kerri Rigsby’s supposed efforts to influence the adjusting of her mother’s Katrina claim. And she talks about the supposed meeting Scruggs had with a State Farm "insider" in Bloomington, which he bragged about in a news story, and which turns out to be so much Scruggsian hot air — he hired a guy to meet him at the airport and hand him an empty envelope to make it look like he was getting some top secret documents. I guess he had no qualms about staging this phony baloney stunt and then claiming it as real to the media, but then again, that’s not so hard to believe about a guy who would bribe a judge.
Here is the deposition of Tammy Hardison. This has a lot of the same information as the Lee deposition, but the testimony manages to portray Kerri Rigsby in an even poorer light, heavy on ruthless, two-faced conniving qualities but light on horsepower between the ears. Here’s an example:
Q. Tell me about that.
A. Kerri came over to my camper and asked me if I would look through my files and — any of my claimants and look and see if I saw anything that maybe looked kind of strange or something that maybe Dickie might want to, you know, have their name. And I told her no.
Q. Okay. And did you ask her at any time why she was doing it?
A. Well, yes. I was very upset that she was doing it. And she said, well, we’ll never get caught. We’ll never, you know, be found out.
Kerri Rigsby thought she would never be found out? Holy Cow! Did someone tell her that, or did she come up with that idea all on her own? Because, you know, that is simply absurd, on the one hand talking about being big movie star heroes, and on the other hand, no one will ever know. Kind of like thinking no one will ever know if you go to work wearing pants made out of aluminum beer cans.
Just so it’s easier for you to compare what Lee and Hardison testified to what Kerri said to what Kerri said she said during her own deposition on April 30 and May 1, 2007, here is a copy of that Kerri Rigsby deposition.
The import of all of this? The Ride of the Rigsbys is definitely over, finished, bye-bye, ancient history, kaput, ausgespielt. If I was in their shoes, I’d still be thinking about who would play me in the movie, but this time I’d be worried.