Scruggs Nation, Day 24: Christmas vacation

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: drossmiller@bpmlaw.com, (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.

 

20 Comments

Filed under Industry Developments

20 Responses to Scruggs Nation, Day 24: Christmas vacation

  1. Doug

    I doudt either will contact you.

  2. iwannaknow

    nice reply david.
    i would like to see you to further extend the invitation to dickie, patterson, balducci, zach, backstrom, the rigsby sisters, any/all SKG venturers, any/all HALT (aka tobacco venturers), lott, blake, moore, peters, langston, delaughter, ford, and of course, any and all other state farm engineers and adjusters. i am sure there are others i haven’t mentioned.
    the internet has changed the world. this stuff SHOULD be the job of AP reporters. unfortunately, there was not much press coverage of many of the issues until prompted by you and others. FOLO has been all over the press to do a better job. blog coverage has seemed to get the interest of reporters, and let’s hope they, with better resources, seek to uncover the truth. it may be that many of those mentioned did no wrong. but you are right. they have made themselves into public figures, and the issues do merit public scrutiny and comment.
    happy holidays.

  3. Sam

    After reading the pathetic comments attributed to Courtney Schloemer printed in Legal Newsline. I’m beginning to believe that Dickie Scruggs was in reality, the de facto AG for the State of Mississippi. It’s unfortunate that the currently elected AG is such a coward, and let’s the like of poor Ms. Scloemer speak on his behalf.

  4. iwannaknow

    order of continuance by biggers on pacer. some intersting comments. david i know you have access

  5. iwannaknow

    interesting, sorry

  6. I will be in flight for the next six hours and unable to approve comments, so be prepared for substantial delays between when you post and when it appears. This approval feature is a one Lexblog builds into all lawyer blogs that use its platform. Sorry for the incovenience. No one, like my secretary, is at work today to do it for me either.

  7. IWANNAKNOW et al., the order is now linked at folo.

  8. I, too, miss Karen Carpenter.
    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

  9. Thick

    The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.

  10. Ironic

    I have a very important question for Courtney Schloemer. Ms. Schloemer, you mentioned that bloggers should go after elected officials (those on the ballot) and those making millions (the defense lawyers).
    Question: What does the truth have to do with the ballot or money? What do the ethics of government officials have to do with the ballot or money?
    .
    Ms. Schloemer, I, for one, look forward to the Grand Jury information being made public at the proper time. I hope it gets us closer to the truth.
    For now, we rely on information such as Brian Fords notes. I have serious questions about your ethics after reading about your suggestion (according to Brian) that Mr. Ford wait to be paid so that the appearance (emphasize appearance versus reality) to the Grand Jury was that Mr. Ford was impartial. Ms. Schloemer, you knew better, right? You knew Mr. Ford stood to make a handsome sum from those with the millions for telling the story they wanted told. If you pay a person $10,000 PER MONTH to tell a story, plus a percentage of the overall take, what story do you expect them to tell? Wouldn’t they be compromised?
    And, I agree with David, if discussions took place about linking the value of criminal and civil cases, then that is completely over the top and totally improper, and most likely illegal.
    Lastly, David and others have been blogging on the case for months, and, in my opinion, it is significant that Courtney Schloemer decided to speak out over a blog. AG Hood and his staff must be under pressure.
    David, keep on keeping on. Behind the lies, the cover-ups, the spin, the contributions, the bribes, and the money is the truth. The simple truth.
    Ironic

  11. also a lawyer

    Keep up the good work. As a Mississippian, lawyer and Katrina “victim”, I can say that I have never trusted or believed for one minute that anything Hood or Scruggs was or is doing is for the victims of Katrina. It’s all about greed and ego.
    Had Hood had a better opponent, he would be looking for a new job right about now. Of course, he’d probably have one with SKG or one of the other bottom-feeder firms they associate with.

  12. Liz

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, David, and thanks for your outstanding blog. Thanks also for the Karen Carpenter link — I’d never heard her version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” although the local radio stations usually play her cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” every year. I’m uncool enough not to consider her a guilty pleasure either!

  13. observer

    You deserve a break, David. Go eat some turkey and open some presents. I’ll bet not much happens the next week anyway.
    You are doing a great job and it doesn’t look like you are going to have to worry about anyone in the news media scooping you while you are gone even if anything does happen.
    The bloggers, especiall David R., own the Scruggs story. And the news media outlets all wonder why no one is reading or watching them any more. I hate to think how little anyone would know of this very important story if it had happened ten years ago (and in fact, much of it apparently did, without any notice by the MSM.)

  14. Ironic

    “He obviously doesn’t need my help making money.”
    This quote is of interest to me. I would guess that Scruggs would not ask Courtney for money, sure. Yet, Scruggs certainly needs her help in a major way. She was interviewing the “rising star” witness, Brian Ford. What could be more important? I am concerned with others deference to Mr. Scruggs because of his larger than life persona. If you are on the other side of a lawsuit from Mr. Scruggs, you certainly do not want to keep hearing about how the guy has a plane.
    Courtney also seems to be distancing herself from those on the ballot (AG Hood) and those with the millions (Scruggs and SKG). Why?
    Ironic

  15. MORE COWBELL

    To Ironic: SKG could not pay Ford (the honest engineer) a percentage of the take because it is against the ABA ethics. This question is on every multistate exam.

  16. iwannaknow

    hey “more cowbell” – look at page 17 of ford’s notes previously linked by rosmiller.
    http://www.insurancecoverageblog.net/Ford%20Notes%20unredacted%20part%20I.pdf
    ford was clearly discussing a percentage, ethical or not, with Derek Wyatt, apparently an attorney with SKG memeber Nutt & McAlister. it is listed mid-page under “SKG offer/proposal” and includes a “retainer 10k 12mo” and to “%”. i agree offering a percentage to a fact witness, and non-lawyer, is a BIG no-no known to anyone who passed the Bar exam. it seems they are trying to avoid this by labeling him a “consulting expert” whose opinions and identity would be non-discoverable. its also troubling that immediately before that note is a reference to a conference call with courtney and derek where AG is apparently advising “‘hold’ on any discussions”, presumably about payments and presumably until grand jury testimony complete. and see page 18 for more communications with derek and courtney

  17. Bama Insurance

    To MORE COWBELL (great name by the way), do you think if the “Bribery Five” are guilty of any charges against them, they would be worried about paying Ford a percentage since it’s against ABA ethics?

  18. MORE COWBELL

    Bama Insurance: great point! But it does look like the conversation stopped when Ford brought up the % proposal. Speaking of morals, it sure looks like someone also paid Judge Bobby Delaughter, and this came from Balducci. May involve former DA Ed Peters, Bobby’s former boss. How bout this: SKG wouldn’t pay Ford a % b/c they couldn’t even decide how much each of the 5 partners would cash in. Nutt was in for 35%, which was reduced to 31% on March 2. Besides, Ford could only testify to maybe two engineering reports. Not a whole lot of meat there. BAMA: the “Bribery 5” are now 4 since one is being fitted for striped shirts and pants in . . . Portland. Remember when Rossmiller said he was getting on a plane for a 6 hours ride? Obviously, he was flying back from Oxford with special guests.

  19. m.williams

    TO OBSERVER. first, a big thank-you. I haven’t been careful because I wasn’t respectful of spell-check or giving proper attention to paragraphing. I speed write, with no re-read’s, which is apparently obvious. I repent. And so I have to do my OCD thing and examine the Observer comment more politely: the context is “if” this story happened a decade ago.
    You’re right. But the beginning of this story isn’t ten years ago, as you point to, but about 14 years ago.
    When the Legislature of Mississippi was given an opportunity to make individual lawyers into “Assistants” to the Attorney General of Mississippi, the law changed to cause a past and present danger. As I understand that law, Mike Moore managed it, pushed it through the legislature, and Dick Scruggs got it passed. Is that true?
    For that time, the bad guys were the tobacco industry, or, now that a Judge ruled on RICO [appeal noted] against the cartel, there was just cause to use the legal system to create a level field.
    Unfortunately, the good part of the law that allowed the use of Plaintiff’s lawyers to be the same as the State Attorney General, placed electoral power into the hands of unethical (yes, by your own rules) lawyers. It was bait.
    Fourteen years ago, the news media clamoured for stories on the novel theory of Mike Moore’s use of private attorney’s to do his job. In effect, the Assistants were cloaked with the same power of the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in – as it turned out – every State and territory of the USA.
    While some formalities are truly our friends, there is often a subterfuge. Little thought was put into the future of this. Moore’s 1997 Mastersettlement was a drill book on how to enhance the stock value of the tobacco cartel in the USA. Because I know that cartel, I’m being perfectly reasonable. It sucked.
    Moore’s idea was constructed to aid and assist the very ideal it portrayed as productive law. The tobacco “deal”, in it’s fully blown edition, made a mockery out of satisfaction of the issue. Even in the case of Minnesotta, the maverick State in the Medicaid Lawsuits, the cave-in was no better or worse in terms of the value of the issue. They got a mock trial, but that was a silly remedy.
    Yet, it was certainly not as smelly. Their lawfirms were paid in a fashion that is normal practice.
    I can’t believe that there’s not more scrutiny of the past practice of Moore which invariably leads to Hood which inexplicably leads to Scruggs {presumption of guilt or innocence noted} but after that’s done with, what did the Mississippi AG Assistant’s law do for the entire nation of lawyers? Did it get all better?
    It doesn’t matter if judges get brides when the system offers a very good reason to vacate the ancient tradition that law is clean. It’s only as clean as the system provides. Gideon did a great thing for law. What did Moore do? And Scruggs? Time for a review, right?
    I guess there’s not much difference in 10 years. But there was 4 additional years of media beginning in 1993.