According to Mississippi AG Jim Hood, allegations that attorney Dickie Scruggs engaged in criminal contempt by willfully violating a federal judge’s injunction are all wet. Scruggs, Hood said in a July letter to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, should be left alone because he is a crime buster and a "confidential informant." I am not making this up. New slogan for the Scruggs defense team in the criminal contempt case: "Mr. Scruggs does not commit crimes, he fights them."
This information is contained in a letter Scruggs filed as an an exhibit to supplemental briefing yesterday in the McIntosh v. State Farm Katrina case, where State Farm is seeking to have Scruggs disqualified based on his alleged violation of the injunction and for other reasons having to do with his purported conflicts of interest stemming from his representation of the "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters. The letter, a pdf of which can be seen here, sounds like a proposal to Marvel for a new superhero comic book: Hood and Scruggs, The Legal Avengers.
In the letter, Hood asks Martin take a pass on Judge William Acker’s request that she prosecute Scruggs for criminal contempt. Martin in fact did decline to prosecute, but I can’t believe this letter had anything to do with her decision unless she is extremely gullible, not a characteristic one usually associates with a U.S. Attorney. (Following Martin’s decision, Acker appointed special prosecutors who have filed charges against Scruggs and his law firm. Note to self: if ever in Judge Acker’s court, do nothing to make him angry).
Here’s a taste of the letter:
Mr. Scruggs has functioned as a confidential informant for our investigation [Hood investigated State Farm for allegedly fraudulent actions but closed the investigation as part of a settlement that was later shot down by federal Judge L.T. Senter Jr.] and is protected by state law as a whistle blower. Using those documents [the 15,000 State Farm claims documents the Rigsbies copied and took from their employer, State Farm contractor E.A. Renfroe], my office has conducted an ongoing investigation into what we believe is State Farm’s fraudulent conduct, not only toward their own policyholders, but also against the National Flood Insurance Program as well. Our investigation continues and in both of our reports to Congress, it has been our recommendation that federal racketeering charges should be considered. The prospect of bringing a federal prosecution against an out-of-state whistle blower [Martin is U.S. Attorney for Northern Alabama where the Rigsby sisters were sued by E.A. Renfroe in Acker’s court, Scruggs lives in Mississippi], who has cooperated in state and federal criminal investigations in another state, raises serious comity concerns.
You know the verb "to fisk"? As this word is used in the blogosphere, it refers to a line-by-line debunking of hyped up, incorrect, evasive or deceitful prose, as in: "he subjected the story to a merciless fisking." (The term is derived from Robert Fisk, a reporter for the UK newspaper the Independent, and the repeated dismantling by bloggers of his allegedly slanted and made-up news stories). Don’t get me wrong, Hood looks like a hard worker, and I like him, but from what I’ve seen of his public assertions, he is very fiskable. For example, in that upcoming anti-concurrent cause article I’ve been talking about, I subjected Hood’s testimony to Congress to a vigorous fisking. I don’t have the time to fisk this entire letter, but if you read it, you will notice sleight-of-hand with verb tenses and so forth, attempts to imply that past actions are taking place in the present, and other lawyer tricks.
So, to get back to the McIntosh case, in a prior post I linked to State Farm’s memorandum in support of its motion to disqualify Scruggs. I thought the brief was well-written. Scruggs’ response brief was also well-done, and like the State Farm brief, it had a supporting declaration by a heavy-hitting legal ethics expert. Scruggs hired Geoffrey Hazard, one of the best known experts on ethics and procedure in the country — I read his textbook on civil procedure when I was in law school. (Still, all in all, Hazard’s declaration was not as strong as the one written by Charles Wolfram, State Farm’s expert). You can see Prof. Hazard’s declaration here. The Wolfram declaration can be viewed at the link in the first sentence of this paragraph.
In contrast to the Scruggs response brief, which was filed in June, the three-page supplemental briefing filed yesterday was weak — its only purpose was to introduce the Hood letter as evidence. Why did they bother? Someone might mistake the Hood letter for one of the spoofs I’ve written on this blog. Introducing it as evidence is like calling an office meeting to announce that when you came to work this morning you forgot to wear any pants.
By the way, I noticed on the court docket two interesting entries at the end: State Farm has sent notices for the video depositions of Dickie Scruggs and his son and law partner, Zach Scruggs. Is there going to be a fight over whether those depositions happen? You better believe it. Take a look at the documents State Farm wants them to produce. Are Dickie and Zach Scruggs going to fight that? You can bet the ranch on it.