Valentine’s Day potpourri

I was going through my feedreader, which I haven’t had much time to do recently, and with this relative lull it’s a good time to give a few links and talk about a few things that I’ve yet to get to.

— I was reading this story by John O’Brien of Legal Newsline about the battle in the McIntosh v. State Farm case over whether the Scruggs(less) Katrina Group, now known as the Katrina Litigation Group, should be disqualified for allegedly unethical conduct.  I love this story because it talks about one of my favorite artifacts from the post-Katrina conflagration, the Brian Ford notebook.  For sheer outrageousness and unintentional hilarity, the Ford notes are not quite up there with Hood’s confidential informant letter, Dickie Scruggs’ anti-George Dale ad where he depicted Dale as a pig with lipstick, or the transcript of Hood’s testimony at the February 6 State Farm v. Hood hearing, but they have great value, a sort of Rosetta Stone of Katrina litigation.     

The first pleading linked to in the story is a response brief by the KLG objecting to what it sees as dirty tactics in trying to get KLG lawyers disqualified.  On page 10 of the response was something that made me laugh, an attack on the declaration of State Farm’s ethics expert, Charles Wolfram, who is described as "a lawyer whose bar license is inactive and who retired nine years ago."  You know, when the argument is over alleged corruption, dirty tricks and lies by practicing lawyers, pointing out that the expert is not an active attorney may not be the worst thing you could say about him.  I’m not sure what is the point of the remark about Wolfram retiring nine years ago — maybe it is to imply he must be completely senile by this time, or perhaps that someone who has not been in the game for nine years couldn’t possibly be wise to all the new excuses for unethical lawyer conduct.  But I don’t mean to pick on the KLG, I know and like some of the lawyers in it.   

Incidentally, with every story Legal Newsline runs about Jim Hood, they use the same picture, which has another guy in the photo who seems to be reacting to Hood by making some kind of mocking, simian-like face. I’m sure that, whoever he is, he just got caught on camera in the middle of talking, telling a joke, sneezing, whatever.  Every time I see that picture I feel sorry for the guy. 

— I haven’t had time to do a lot of analysis of the motions Dickie Scruggs and the other defendants filed the other day.  But when the motions were filed, my initial read on the motion for a change of venue was, Hey, hasn’t Scruggs always portrayed himself as a fighter for the little guy, a tribune of the people, a freedom fighter?  After all, he took on Big Asbestos, Big Tobacco and Big Insurance on behalf of the people.  And now he’s saying he’s afraid of his own? 

You remember back in the day, almost a year ago, when Scruggs said Katrina litigation wasn’t just a legal battle, it was also a political battle and a public relations battle?  Back then, he sat down for worshipful interviews with NPR (the post linked to is a long time ago, in it I said I didn’t know much about the facts of Katrina cases, sometimes I wish that were still true), and he was the captain of the U.S.S. Katrina, in command of a media machine.  Now he’s kvetching that the media is examining him in "excruciating detail" and instead of controlling public relations, he’s running from the public. As I’ve said before, your perspective depends on which end of the microscope you’re on. 

Jane Genova’s post at Law and More analyzes some of the contentions in the motion for change of venue.  She points out that I have been "compulsively" writing about Scruggs for a long time, long before the indictments came around.  I would put a slightly different spin on it.  I became interested in Katrina litigation because of the intricacies of insurance coverage law involved, and Scruggs just happened to be in the picture.  My main goal is to communicate with the readers of this blog, and Scruggs is merely part of the vocabulary of the lingua franca.  A great post by Genova, which makes Scruggs’ lawyers look like they are going on some Grandpa Simpson-like rant about technology, having absolutely no idea what they are talking about.  

— The White Collar Crime Prof blog also continues its excellent Scruggs analysis with a look at the motions.  Great post, great writing.  As many blogs are showing, legal analysis does not have to be boring.     

  

20 Comments

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20 Responses to Valentine’s Day potpourri

  1. MS Smitty

    The guy in the photo with Hood making the weird face is none other than Mike Moore.

  2. Former Mississippian

    In the photo that Legal Newsline always uses, the other guy is former Attorney General Mike Moore. (He’s not mocking Hood; he’s giving him marching orders.)

  3. bellesouth

    “State Farm has also sued Hood for threatening to reopen a criminal investigation it said it settled, with the intention of forcing civil settlements.
    “Hood worked with the SKG and the Rigsbys to take documents from State Farm, without a warrant, for use in a criminal investigation,” State Farm claimed. “In return, Hood used the threat of criminal indictments as a means of coercing settlements in the SKG’s civil cases.”
    Yep, and we see how that turned out: Case Dismissed
    “Jim Hood and Mike Moore are not on trial here; nor have any charges been brought against either Mr. Hood or Mr. Moore for the conduct at issue in SF’s motion,” Lovelace wrote. “State Farm’s conjecture-laden mudslinging with the hopes that some might stick is unprofessional and wholly deficient to justify disqualification.”

  4. I’m troubled by the third paragraph you wrote, because it suggests that reality has not entered into your analysis. Do you mean to suggest you think Hood in any way achieved success in State Farm’s lawsuit, as “success” is traditionally defined? And here, I am not talking about the definition of success in an alternative universe, where the word might be defined as “getting pancaked by your litigation opponent.”
    The case was dismissed, yes, after the judge said the settlement agreement was unambiguous and enforceable, and after the parties entered in a settlement agreement. All cases are dismissed or terminated at some point. Do you know what’s in the settlement agreement? I know some of it, and Jim did not win.

  5. Mississippian

    Go, Rossmiller!

  6. nomiss

    The first time I saw Legal Newsline’s photo of AG Jim Hood, I thought how appropriate it was for Mike Moore to be photographed with him since they are an AG team—Hood will hold the position and Moore will tell him what to do. My impression from the photo was that Hood was speaking before a group and Moore was interjecting to explain or clarify for Hood. As in Hood stating: We are going to sue State Farm. Now, Mike, will you tell them how we are going to do that?

  7. DeltaNative

    Regarding your comments on the change of venue motion, clearly, Mississippi is no longer a “Magic Jurisdiction”.

  8. Mississippian

    “We are going to sue State Farm. Now, Mike, will you tell them how we are going to do that?” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    “I will, Jim, if you’ll take off that ‘I’m with Stupid’ t-shirt.”

  9. bellesouth

    It seems in this context — re: Hood worked with the SKG and the Rigsbys to take documents from State Farm, without a warrant, for use in a criminal investigation — didn’t pan out. That’s all.

  10. Hatfield

    DeltaNative My thoughts exactly. Looks like all the Honey Holes have dried up around these parts.

  11. bellesouth

    RE: State Farm v. Hood. You say Jim Hood did not win. I don’t believe you know more about what is in that settlement agreement than I. Whether Jim Hood won or lost is a matter of opinion. Hood was the defendant in this case. The case was dismissed. How do we know that State Farm didn’t ask for the settlement to be sealed. That would be a non-governmental request. Settlements mean both sides win or both sides lost whichever way you want to look at it.

  12. ResIpsaLoquitur

    BELLESOUTH – your line of thinking would suggest that Balducci, Patterson and Langston have also “won” since they pled guilty and since the Govt agreed to accept their guilty plea. If by that you mean that they won by copping a plea to avoid being savaged by the evidence, then I would have to agree. Any other definition of a Hood “win” would be a hard sell.
    Also Belle, since you seem to be all-knowing about the settlement terms, why don’t you share those details? Do tell.
    One last point – Mr. Rossmiller, I think it’s time to organize a search party for Brian Martin. We haven’t heard from him in a while.

  13. Word I got from the Natchez courthouse was an upholstery firm was called in the day after the settlement was reached to repair the hole in the seat of the witness chair. Said it was round and about the size of a quarter. Not sure if that has anything to do with who won….

  14. bellesouth

    I have been left wondering in all the hoopla that Hood “lost”. Ok, in the event that both sides won, State Farm got Hood to back off the criminal indictments? Hood got State Farm to live up to the agreement and 11 conditions of Judge Senter’s which he said State Farm walked away from? Let’s start from there. And then let’s go to this:
    In May 2006, seven years later, a jury in Grady County levied a $13 million judgment against a unit of State Farm Insurance Co., including $10 million in punitive damages, finding that the insurer “recklessly,” “intentionally,” and “with malice” denied legitimate claims brought by a class of Oklahoma policyholders.
    The case centered around State Farm’s use of a Houston-based engineering giant, Haag Engineering Co., which, plaintiffs alleged, was employed intentionally to undervalue damage to homes or claim the damage was caused by other factors—like faulty construction—instead of tornadoes.
    The jury further found “clear and convincing evidence” that State Farm recklessly disregarded its duty to act fairly and in good faith with members of the class action by employing Haag Engineering and an independent adjustment company. It also said State Farm acted intentionally and with malice in dealing with customers in the use of these two companies.
    State Farm, by the way, hired Haag Engineering to adjust and inspect claims after Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. It suspended Haag from Katrina work after this jury verdict hit the following spring. In September 2006, federal prosecutors in Mississippi investigating allegations of insurer wrongdoing related to Katrina claims subpoenaed records from the Oklahoma case.

  15. David Rossmiller

    Why are you doing this to yourself? State Farm isn’t my brother, I don’t care if you insult State Farm. But pointing to some past case in Oklamoma is like saying Mike Huckabee must have won the Virginia primary because John McCain divorced his wife back in the 1970s. What’s that got to do with anything? What jury verdict in the following spring are you talking about? I don’t recall any Katrina verdicts sooner than the Leonard v. Nationwide case, which Nationwide won, and then the Broussard case in early 2007. Your time frame suggests a verdict in early 2006. If there was one, it has slipped my mind, what’s the name of the case?

  16. David, me thinks the case she references took place in Oklahoma (tornado claims) and the jury came back with a large verdict about the time things started heating up in Mississippi re: Katrina. Several of the local southern Mississippi papers ran stories with various quotes and deposition testimony which certainly did not cast a favorable appearance on the insurance company. Perhaps Belle is using this to suggest “prior acts”.

  17. tsetse

    Rossmiller, 2 things:
    1. too funny that you don’t know who the mystery man in the photo is (or did you?)…we all know that profile down here!
    2. You have a problem on board. Take heed immediately, my man. If I’m being too cryptic, talk to YP and check your e-mail.

  18. David Rossmiller

    I actually did not know that was Moore, I would have recognized him from the front, but I didn’t from the side, plus he is making that strange face.

  19. The Oklahoma case- full details at this Oklahoma law firms website showing court documents and the jury verdict. This includes deposition transcripts of many State Farm executives and settlement info on the case posted in May 2007:
    http://www.marrlawfirm.com/class_action.asp

  20. Here is also the insurance news story that came out on the case. Sorry I meant to include this in the earlier comment.
    http://www.insurancenewsnet.com/article.asp?a=1&id=78852