Renfroe v. Rigsby update

Though the Renfroe v. Rigsby case in Alabama has lost the spotlight to other legal developments, like a solid but B list actor on the red carpet at the Oscars when Tom Cruise steps out of his limo, it’s worth mentioning that the case goes on and worth filling you in on some developments.

As I posted about recently, Judge Acker denied motions by Scruggs and the Rigsby sisters that he recuse himself from the case on the grounds of the perception of bias that might arise from his referral of Scruggs for criminal contempt of court charges (Scruggs is not a party in this case, nor did he represent the Rigsbys in the lawsuit against them by Renfroe). In his order denying the motion, Acker stayed further proceedings in the case, except, as he explained in this later order, for discovery.   Here’s Renfroe’s request for clarification upon which he was acting.  A deposition in the case is taking place in Mississippi today — presumably of an expert witness, because expert depositions are mentioned in the motion — and Judge Acker issued this order stating that a magistrate judge would be standing by to handle "anticipated" discovery disputes in the deposition.

UPDATE: After seeing the comment below from Justus, I did some checking myself and it is correct that the Maria Brown deposition is taking place today. Brown, a former paralegal at Nutt & McAlister, one of the firms in the former Scruggs Katrina Group, alleges in her lawsuit against the firm that, despite Acker’s order that the Rigsbys and all their agents return copies of claims documents the sisters took from State Farm, the firm intentionally failed to destroy electronic records of the documents, saying they were in the "public domain."  Here’s a post I wrote about the lawsuit.     

Scruggs, by the way, is seeking permission from Judge Acker to file an interlocutory appeal to the 11th Circuit of the order denying recusal.  In his previous order, Judge Acker said only that he was staying further proceedings to give Scruggs and the Rigsbys a chance to seek appellate review from the 11th Circuit.  He did not say he would grant permission to file an interlocutory appeal, however, and it is possible Judge Acker might deny this request, forcing Scruggs to file a writ of mandamus. The significance of this is that mandamus is an extraordinary remedy with a high burden of proof, because the appellate court is in essence ordering the judge to correct an abuse of discretion, rather than merely reviewing the legal ruling de novo, or without deference. For a further explanation, see In re Bayshore Ford Truck Sales, Inc., 471 F.3d 1233 (11th Cir. 2006).  If you don’t have access to Westlaw or Lexis, you might be able to access this case through Findlaw or some other free service on the Web.

In the criminal case against Scruggs in Alabama, by the way, there are no new docket entries since the December entry setting February 8 as the date of a hearing to decide pending motions.  Among these are the show cause order that has been briefed by Scruggs and the government.  The show cause order requires Scruggs to show why he should not be held in criminal contempt, and the hearing was scheduled for November, along with Scruggs’ arraignment, but was never held because Scruggs filed a successful motion to disqualify the trial judge, Scott Coogler, along with all other judges in the Northern District of Alabama.  The reason stated in the motion for disqualification was that Coogler and other judges in the district, as colleagues of Judge Acker, might be biased or the perception of bias might exist. 


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One Response to Renfroe v. Rigsby update

  1. Justus

    The deposition being taken today in Renfroe v. Risby is the deposition of Maria Brown, or that is at least one of the depositions if there is more than one deposition today. According to my source, the linked order that establishes Judge Ott as the judicial officer to handle disputes, was entered because of disputes over the conduct of Brown’s deposition.
    Brown has alleged, in her complaint in the case of Brown v. Nutt-McAlister et al., that Nutt-McAlister maintained Rigsby-obtained documents belonging to Renfroe even after Judge Acker ordered Scruggs et al. to turn them over to Renfroe’s lawyers. She alleged that she told lawyers at Nutt-McAlister that they were in violation of Judge Acker’s order (or something to that effect), but her comments were disregarded and may have played a part in her employment termination thereafter. I assume, that if true, that would be akin to, and could give rise to, the same criminal contempt issue that Scruggs is facing.