I’ve had requests for an update on United States of America v. Richard F. Scruggs — the criminal contempt case against attorney Dickie Scruggs. The latest news is that last week Scruggs filed his response to an order requiring him to show cause why he should not be held in criminal contempt. More on this after this brief reminder of what we are talking about here.
(Remember, the reason for the charges is that Scruggs allegedly violated an injunction by federal Judge William Acker requiring him to turn over documents to lawyers for E.A. Renfroe, a State Farm contractor. The documents were claims files taken from Renfroe by two employees, the so-called "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters, who while working for Renfroe secretly copied thousands of pages and gave them to Scruggs, Mississippi AG Jim Hood and the FBI. Renfroe sued the "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters for breach of their confidentiality agreements, and in that civil lawsuit, Judge Acker ordered that the documents be returned to Renfroe’s counsel. However, instead of turning them over, Scruggs called Hood and sent his copies to Hood — keep in mind Hood already had his own copies).
Not a really big surprise here — the Scruggs response says the charges should be dismissed for various reasons, such as:
- He didn’t do anything wrong;
- Judge Acker had no jurisdiction in the underlying E.A. Renfroe lawsuit against the "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters;
- Judge Acker’s injunction was ambiguous;
- Scruggs lacked the requisite intent to violate the injunction;
- The independent counsel that brought charges against him were not truly independent but rather puppets of Acker;
- Etc., etc. Here’s a pdf of his response brief.
The brief deals extensively with what Scruggs sees as a saving loophole in Acker’s injunction in the Renfroe case, which Scruggs allegedly violated — the documents could be disclosed to law enforcement. Instead, as mentioned, he called his good friend Mississippi AG Jim Hood and arranged to give them to Hood, who already had copies, in what looked to Judge Acker like a ploy to evade the judge’s order. As you might remember, earlier this year Hood tried to bail Scruggs out and asked the U.S. Attorney not to prosecute Scruggs because he is a "confidential informant" of Hood’s and, well, it just wouldn’t be right to break up a great crime-fighting team. After all, what would Batman be without Robin? What would the League of Justice be without the Green Lantern? Sherlock Holmes without Watson? Inspector Clouseau without Cato?
The United States is due to file a reply brief October 12. I’ll let you know what it says when it is filed. Here is an Associated Press story on developments in this case.