Judge Senter ruled yesterday that State Farm waited too long to object to allegedly unethical conduct of attorney Dickie Scruggs, and denied the insurer’s motion to disqualify Scruggs, his law firm and other attorneys in the Scruggs Katrina Group from representing policyholders against State Farm in about 170 pending cases. Here is a pdf of Judge Senter’s order, typically brief, to the point and well-written. I wish more judges wrote like him.
Here’s a key part of the judge’s ruling:
A motion to disqualify should be filed at the earliest practical opportunity. It is not permissible to hold this right to relief in reserve in order to assert the right at a tactically advantageous time and thereby put an opponent at an unfair disadvantage . . . . I am of the opinion that regardless of the merits of State Farm’s claims of misconduct on the part of Scruggs and his law firm in connection with the Rigsbys, a matter on which I express no opinion, State Farm’s delay of over a year from the time it learned of these actions before raising the issue of disqualification constitutes a waiver of its claim that Scruggs and his firm should now be disqualified . . . .
For those who are having trouble remembering what this is all about, it’s one of the most fascinating of the Katrina sideshows, and you can read more about it here. If you need more background on how Scruggs’ troubles began with his representation of the "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters, read this post or this post, or just type "Rigsby" in my blog’s search box and hit enter.
This motion to disqualify, of course, brought about the supplemental briefing by Scruggs that I wrote about in this post. Featured as an exhibit was the now infamous and ridiculed letter from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin asking her not to prosecute Scruggs for criminal contempt because Scruggs was Hood’s "confidential informant."