Welcome Above the Law readers!
Some of Jim Hood’s proneness to gaffes must have rubbed off on Sheila Birnbaum of Skadden, Arps, a lead counsel for State Farm, when she was down in Mississippi to hear Hood testify February 6. Earlier today, Birnbaum accidentally replied to all the people on the distribution list for an e-mail Hood’s press spokeswoman sent out this morning to a number of people, including reporters. Birnbaum thought she was responding to other State Farm lawyers.
I wrote a post earlier today about the e-mail from Hood’s office, in which Hood said there actually was no settlement of State Farm’s lawsuit, and that the judge dismissed the case because State Farm’s allegations were false. Read the post, and you’ll see the language of the judge’s order is quite clear and so obviously contradicts what Hood is saying that it is hard to fathom why he would bother denying it. Also read this post, about Hood’s claims in an op-ed piece in a Jackson, Mississippi newspaper Monday that "allegations lodged against me by this insurer were shown to be false when a federal judge recently threw out a lawsuit it had filed against my office."
Here’s from an AP story by Mike Kunzelman on the Birnbaum e-mail mistake:
In Monday’s piece, Hood wrote that State Farm’s allegations "were shown to be false" when Bramlette agreed to dismiss its lawsuit. His spokeswoman, Jan Schaefer, echoed that claim in a press release Tuesday in which she denied Hood reached a "settlement" with State Farm.
"The only reason it is referred to as such is because the details of the attorney general’s criminal investigation needed to be protected," Schaefer wrote. "The case was dismissed because the allegations were false."
In response to Schaefer’s e-mail, Sheila L. Birnbaum wrote, "This is so over the top. Can we ask that he be held in contempt of court for misrepresenting a settlement agreement and order of the court."
"No you can’t," Hood’s spokeswoman fired back.
More than a dozen reporters, including several from The Associated Press, were listed as recipients to all three e-mails.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Birnbaum said thought she was responding internally to Schaefer’s e-mail and didn’t realize she was sending it to reporters.
"I’m embarrassed that I pressed the wrong button," she said. "That e-mail shouldn’t have gone out."
The headline on the story suggests the e-mail may hurt the "truce" between Hood and State Farm. I don’t think so, because there is no truce. They hate him and he hates them, and they will continue to say bad things about each other until this Katrina generation has passed away. There is, however, an enforceable settlement agreement, and nothing that Hood said or Birnbaum said will change that.
However, everything else aside, the lady did ask a question. Should Hood be held in contempt for misrepresenting the settlement? Alternatively, should he be cited for denial of reality, given a Rorschach test to help explain his "squealing" imagery in the newspaper op-ed, and asked whether he has ever been abducted by aliens or had beers with Bigfoot?