It has been quite a month of incessant Scruggsblogging. Believe it or not, before the indictment I planned December as a period where I could minimize blogging and work on other things such as my next Appleman’s Critical Issues article on Fifth Circuit Katrina decisions and a new chapter in the Appleman’s treatise on hurricane coverage law. As I write this, I am still trying to get back home to Portland so I can observe Christmas with my family, so this will likely be my last post for a few days. A few items, holiday-related and otherwise:
- She will never be crowned by the aristocracy and she has never been considered chic, but no female singer has ever sold a song like Karen Carpenter. Check out her version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Never mind the grainy image, the dopey brass and sax, the totally unfunny Jack Benny schtick at the beginning and that wacky, wacky ’70s look that pervades the whole thing in such a bold and degraded way it almost invites God to destroy the world by fire, never mind that the words portray Santa as a cross between Big Brother and some deranged Prussian Gruppenfuehrer, her performance is totally sincere. I don’t consider her a guilty pleasure like, say, this this song by ABBA. (Or better yet as an example of something you have to apologize for really liking, this ABBA song). In contrast, every song Karen Carpenter ever sang, she makes you feel that she believes each word she says. And I’ll tell you what, that is something there is always too little of.
- You can see some quotes from Courtney Schloemer, an assistant AG in Jim Hood’s office, about me, or to me, I guess, in this John O’Brien Legal Newsline story. In response to her apparent concern I have not called her for information, one thing I would say is I hardly ever call anyone for information. I have a day job and I am not the Associated Press, which is why I don’t conduct interviews and write news stories. Although what I do here is opinion journalism of a sort, this is a blog and not a news organization. I comment on public events and public documents of interest to me, and it is true I am fortunate in that many people come to me with information, but it is beyond my resources to become a wire service, unless someone will fork over some asbestos, tobacco or insurance settlement money so I can hire some reporting staff! Apparently she felt it was quite unjust that I repeated from the Brian Ford notes about her alleged conversation with an SKG attorney concerning a criminal conviction helping out the civil cases. She also asks why do I assume State Farm did no wrong, when I have not seen the evidence she has. An excerpt from the story:
"This is all a little like kicking someone who has their hands tied behind their back. We can’t disclose what we know from the grand jury, because there is an ongoing investigation, albeit temporarily enjoined by the federal courts. So while we may have information responsive to some of the points being discussed by people who do NOT have access to grand jury information, we are not at liberty to present the other side of the story.
"I am constantly surprised though at those who, without reviewing one document from the grand jury investigation, will swear on a stack that State Farm did no wrong. How do you know?
. . . .
"Maybe Mr. Rossmiller considers me collateral damage, but I have three investigators working with me who participated in the State Farm investigation and they deserve better than this. If you want to go after the people who put their names on the ballot or make millions of dollars every year, then have at it, but I would appreciate it if you would at least try to get our side of the story before you drag ordinary people through the mud."
First, I don’t assume that State Farm has done no wrong. I don’t assume it has done wrong either. I am not emotionally invested one way or the other as to its rightness or wrongness. I read and interpret publicly available documents and discuss the evidence. My conclusions derive from the evidence that is available to me — others have other opinions, and that is why they make vanilla and chocolate. There may be facts I do not know, this is true. However, I am not sure if her observation is meant to suggest State Farm has done wrong based on her knowledge of secret, undisclosed grand jury information that cannot be contested or examined — if so, I would take issue with such an extrajudicial statement coming from a state law enforcement official who works for an office with the power to drag ordinary people through the mud and threaten to indict them, whether in aid of civil cases or otherwise.
Second, the same door is open to Courtney Schloemer and Jim Hood as to anyone else — e-mail me or call me and give me your perspective. As I said, my opinions are based on the evidence available to me.
Third, the documents I discuss are open-sourced and publicly available. Readers of this blog are quite sophisticated and can make up their own minds and draw their own conclusions.
Fourth, I don’t believe I have mentioned Ms. Schloemer’s staff, favorably or unfavorably. I didn’t know she had one. If she hadn’t mentioned these three investigators, I would not have known they existed. I do not know their names or what they do, therefore I cannot drag them through the mud. In fact, I am not sure why she speaks of them — prior to this mention of them, they appear to have been mud-free.
I must disagree with her characterization of me as kicking her when she can’t fight back in public — a statement that is belied by her fighting back in public. When a law enforcement official’s name appears repeatedly in public documents, such as on page 8 of Judge Acker’s order referring Dickie Scruggs for alleged criminal contempt, and when that official acts in the name and under the authority of the state in critical matters of high public interest including criminal investigations, that person is a public figure and comment is justified. Also, one correction to the story: I think what I said was that the conduct, if true, was outrageous, not that it was outstanding. If I said outstanding, I meant outrageous, which I think is apropos as a term to describe — if it in fact happened as the Brian Ford notes relate — discussions by an assistant attorney general with one party to civil litigation about the possible indictment and conviction of the other party as a potential boon to that litigation. Still, Ms. Schloemer, you wanted to get a message to me and you did — I will continue to think over what you said.
Rest assured, I do not consider you collateral damage. I bear you no ill will and I welcome your input. Same goes for Jim Hood, I would be happy to receive communications from him. Maybe he can tell me whether he agrees with your statement. In fact, since I will have some vacation days right after Christmas and will have a free hour or two, and since I used to be a professional journalist and have done thousands of interviews, and since you said I did not get your side of the story, consider this my offer to conduct a formal news-type interview of you and Jim Hood, separately or together, on the matters I have been discussing on this blog for the past year. I can publish the interview right here next week. Here’s my e-mail address to respond: firstname.lastname@example.org, (Or you or Mr. Hood can pass the message through John O’Brien at Legal Newsline).
- Here’s a copy of an order filed in Hinds County in April 2006. In it, Judge Simpson ordered State Farm to turn over certain documents to the Attorney General, on condition that he erect an ethical wall keeping information from the criminal probe from reaching those AG staffers working on Hood’s civil suit against State Farm. The judge also stated: "All counsel of record in this case are cautioned against making extrajudicial statements or releasing information concerning any matters before the grand jury."
I refer you to this news story, that contains this passage:
Simpson asked Hood to explain how it became public that the grand jury was investigating allegations that State Farm allegedly is manipulating engineering reports to deny policyholders’ claims. Hood denied that he was a source of that information.
"It’s difficult to keep a matter like this quiet," Hood said. "There’s been absolutely no proof that we’ve leaked any information that’s improper."
I refer you to the Brian Ford notes, page Ford 0012, fourth and fifth lines from the top.
I refer you to this video of Jim Hood’s testimony before Congress, starting at 8:15-27 (also watch the reactions of the people sitting behind Hood during this stretch of testimony).
I refer you to the deposition of Lee Harrell, page 340.
All depends on what your definition of "extrajudicial statements" and "releasing information" is.
That’s it for this post and likely until Christmas is in the rear view mirror. Season’s Greetings. As Tim Balducci might say, see you on the "flip" side.