Mississippi AG Hood calls Dickie Scruggs a ‘confidential informant,’ says he shouldn’t be prosecuted

According to Mississippi AG Jim Hood, allegations that attorney Dickie Scruggs engaged in criminal contempt by willfully violating a federal judge’s injunction are all wet.  Scruggs, Hood said in a July letter to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, should be left alone because he is a crime buster and a "confidential informant." I am not making this up. New slogan for the Scruggs defense team in the criminal contempt case: "Mr. Scruggs does not commit crimes, he fights them." 

This information is contained in a letter Scruggs filed as an an exhibit to supplemental briefing yesterday in the McIntosh v. State Farm Katrina case, where State Farm is seeking to have Scruggs disqualified based on his alleged violation of the injunction and for other reasons having to do with his purported conflicts of interest stemming from his representation of the "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters.   The letter, a pdf of which can be seen here, sounds like a proposal to Marvel for a new superhero comic book: Hood and Scruggs, The Legal Avengers

In the letter, Hood asks Martin take a pass on Judge William Acker’s request that she prosecute Scruggs for criminal contempt.  Martin in fact did decline to prosecute, but I can’t believe this letter had anything to do with her decision unless she is extremely gullible, not a characteristic one usually associates with a U.S. Attorney.  (Following Martin’s decision, Acker appointed special prosecutors who have filed charges against Scruggs and his law firm.  Note to self: if ever in Judge Acker’s court, do nothing to make him angry).

Here’s a taste of the letter:

Mr. Scruggs has functioned as a confidential informant for our investigation [Hood investigated State Farm for allegedly fraudulent actions but closed the investigation as part of a settlement that was later shot down by federal Judge L.T. Senter Jr.] and is protected by state law as a whistle blower.  Using those documents [the 15,000 State Farm claims documents the Rigsbies copied and took from their employer, State Farm contractor E.A. Renfroe], my office has conducted an ongoing investigation into what we believe is State Farm’s fraudulent conduct, not only toward their own policyholders, but also against the National Flood Insurance Program as well.  Our investigation continues and in both of our reports to Congress, it has been our recommendation that federal racketeering charges should be considered.  The prospect of bringing a federal prosecution against an out-of-state whistle blower [Martin is U.S. Attorney for Northern Alabama where the Rigsby sisters were sued by E.A. Renfroe in Acker’s court, Scruggs lives in Mississippi], who has cooperated in state and federal criminal investigations in another state, raises serious comity concerns.

You know the verb "to fisk"? As this word is used in the blogosphere, it refers to a line-by-line debunking of hyped up, incorrect, evasive or deceitful prose, as in: "he subjected the story to a merciless fisking." (The term is derived from Robert Fisk, a reporter for the UK newspaper the Independent, and the repeated dismantling by bloggers of his allegedly slanted and made-up news stories).  Don’t get me wrong, Hood looks like a hard worker, and I like him, but from what I’ve seen of his public assertions, he is very fiskable. For example, in that upcoming anti-concurrent cause article I’ve been talking about, I subjected Hood’s testimony to Congress to a vigorous fisking. I don’t have the time to fisk this entire letter, but if you read it, you will notice sleight-of-hand with verb tenses and so forth, attempts to imply that past actions are taking place in the present, and other lawyer tricks.  

So, to get back to the McIntosh case, in a prior post I linked to State Farm’s memorandum in support of its motion to disqualify Scruggs.  I thought the brief was well-written. Scruggs’ response brief was also well-done, and like the State Farm brief, it had a supporting declaration by a heavy-hitting legal ethics expert. Scruggs hired Geoffrey Hazard, one of the best known experts on ethics and procedure in the country — I read his textbook on civil procedure when I was in law school. (Still, all in all, Hazard’s declaration was not as strong as the one written by Charles Wolfram, State Farm’s expert).  You can see Prof. Hazard’s declaration here.  The Wolfram declaration can be viewed at the link in the first sentence of this paragraph.

In contrast to the Scruggs response brief, which was filed in June, the three-page supplemental briefing filed yesterday was weak — its only purpose was to introduce the Hood letter as evidence. Why did they bother? Someone might mistake the Hood letter for one of the spoofs I’ve written on this blog.  Introducing it as evidence is like calling an office meeting to announce that when you came to work this morning you forgot to wear any pants.

By the way, I noticed on the court docket two interesting entries at the end: State Farm has sent notices for the video depositions of Dickie Scruggs and his son and law partner, Zach Scruggs.  Is there going to be a fight over whether those depositions happen?  You better believe it.  Take a look at the documents State Farm wants them to produce.  Are Dickie and Zach Scruggs going to fight that?  You can bet the ranch on it.   

9 Comments

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9 Responses to Mississippi AG Hood calls Dickie Scruggs a ‘confidential informant,’ says he shouldn’t be prosecuted

  1. Apparently I need to reference my dictionary and refresh my memory as to the meanings of “Confidential” and “Informant”; and then determine what synergistic properties these words must have when used together in order to declare Scruggs a “Confidential Informant”.

  2. Tex Mex

    While some would despair if forced to reconcile one’s past advocacy in favor of broad discovery, I am certain Scruggs will not be bothered. Burdesome discovery is for “big tobacco”, asbestos manufaturers and evil insurers, not for “legal avengers”.

  3. Curious

    Why, do you suppose, did Ms. Martin decline to prosecute Scruggs?

  4. No idea. I suppose these are the possibilities:
    1. she could have believed the charges were not valid,
    2. that the charges were valid but that it was too small potatoes for her,
    3. that the charges were valid but her office resources are committed to other priorities,
    4. that the charges are valid but why should she spend her own money pursuing them when Acker said he would appoint his own special prosecutors,
    5. long ago she was saved from being hit by a bus by a mysterious Good Samaritan who pulled her out of the way — he vanished into the crowd and she never learned his identity, except for his first name emblazoned on his bib overalls, “Dickie” — and from that moment forward she vowed never to harm anyone named Dickie,
    6. Was too worried about being fired by Alberto Gonzales to take on new work,
    7. None of the above.

  5. Joe Bingham

    You like Jim Hood?
    He reminds me too much of Crist.

  6. Why wouldn’t I like Hood? He gives me endless stuff to write about. Crist too.

  7. james Mitchell

    Since the Scruggs have donated $45,000.00 to Hood’s campaign got Attorney General, does his letter to the U. S. attorney pass the smell test?

  8. The campaign contributions are a good point, and raises questions about the cooperation between Scruggs and Hood throughout the Katrina cases. As far as this letter is concerned, however, it’s more goofy than effective, I would classify it as something that would have been better left undone. What’s next, a letter from clergymen saying what a good guy Scruggs is?

  9. Bernard Chanin

    The letter is both startling and stupid. It is so preposterous on its face that only a dope or someone desperate would write it. Certainly suggests that Hood has a very compelling reason to try to help Scruggs, something more compelling than a large campaign contribution. If I were the special prosecutor, I’d be puzzling about Hood’s motivations.