Breaking: Scruggs Contempt Case in Alabama Dismissed

David Rossmiller broke this story on his blog. Thanks to Bellesouth for the pdf of the order and heads up.

sop

Update:

I have read the order for dismissal and await a lawyer’s analysis but to me it boils down to what was very apparent from reading Judge Acker’s original order; the law enforcement exception contained therein is absolute and was met as demonstrated by the facts of the case. Also Judge Vinson found Judge Acker’s order was poorly written:

There is some ambiguity in the wording of the order because if the first paragraph was complied with (and the documents were given to counsel for Renfroe), then as Judge Acker himself acknowledged at the March 2007 contempt hearing [see Doc. 130 at 187-88], the second paragraph would be superfluous (i.e., the Rigsbys could not further disclose, use or is appropriate materials no longer in their possession). The special prosecutors attempt to resolve this ambiguity by arguing that the second paragraph meant only that the Rigsbys “could cooperate with law enforcement by discussing with law enforcement what they knew about the documents.” See Doc. 11 at 5. This contention overlooks the nature of the object of the injunction. The second paragraph by its own terms applied to “any material described” in the first paragraph, which plainly consisted of the tangible documents themselves. Any attempt to limit the second paragraph to “mental impressions” or “recollections” must fail…..

And finally the heart of the matter:

However, the fact remains that Scruggs did not violate the clear and express terms of the injunction. Again, as then-Judge (now Justice) Stephen Breyer has observed, courts must read injunctions “to mean rather precisely what they say.”The injunction specifically and precisely said the documents could be given “to law enforcement officials at their request.” Regardless of the subjective intent that Hood may have had when he requested the documents, the undisputed fact is that he did make such a request. The objective language of the injunction expressly authorized the law enforcement exception, and it must be recognized here. Criminal contempt under such circumstances cannot be supported under the law.

While Judge Vinson did cast a wary eye on the arrangement between Mr Scruggs and Mr Hood the bottom line was that issue was ancillary to the points of law. I wonder if Marsha Thompson at WLBT will now rehash the Rigsby sister’s sex lives in an attempt to save face.

This issue has been resolved and not the way the self proclaimed cyber experts predicted. At the risk of appearing snotty such things happen to the closed and weak minds.

Our best wishes and regards go out to the Rigsby sisters for their strength in the face of this assault on their characters and reputations.

sop

6 thoughts on “Breaking: Scruggs Contempt Case in Alabama Dismissed”

  1. Great post, sop. Thanks for the hat tip. I’d be surprised if I wasn’t the one that alerted Rossmiller. I am new to all of this business (of the Rigsbys) as of end of last year and the beginning of this year when I got interested in all the shenningans. I am appalled that the Rigsbys endured such spite. They did the right thing! Whistleblowers are heros against corrupt corporate practices.

  2. You are most welcome Belle. We are in this for positive change, not glory, firm marketing or any other reasons people have to blog on insurance and related matters. Next time send it to us first and I’ll happily give you credit 1000 times over.

    I’m off to Gene Taylor’s Issue + Answers lecture. More on that tomorrow. Have a blessed evening and before I forget Mr. Salter at the C-L said to tell you hi…..;-)

    sop

  3. The Rigsby sisters are still one big dagger pointed in the direction of State Farm and the insurance industry.

    The other dagger? The subprime mess (LOL). I was looking at State Farms investment holdings. They are sitting on a pile of what looks like some very illiquid investments. I imagine much of the rest of the industry is not in much better shape. Regardless of which insurance company we are talking about here (good or bad) lets hope we can avoid some major claim events for the near term at least.

    Maybe the Fed could let them borrow at the discount window like the banks. Probably not strictly legal, but I am not sure who would try and stop it.

  4. Sop wrote “I have read the order for dismissal and await a lawyer’s analysis…”

    Found one for you.

    “I guess we have the answer to the question previously posed:

  5. Lange’s post is another example of the bias that you noted earlier this week Promise. Of course it doesn’t take a JD to understand Judge Vinson’s order of dismissal.

    I ran across this in my computer archives Promise. While it did not address the legal issues, it did get it right. Curious but I don’t think there is a single lawyer on the Clarion ledger editorial board.

    ______________________________

    “U.S. District Judge William Acker’s behavior regarding the victims of Hurricane Katrina is most curious, and disturbing.

    Acker ruled in June that Coast attorney Dickie Scruggs “willfully violated” a Dec. 8 preliminary injunction that required him to deliver “all documents” about State Farm Insurance Co. that whistleblowers Cori and Kerri Rigsby secretly copied after Katrina.

    Last month, Acker named two special prosecutors in the case after U.S. Attorney Alice Martin declined to prosecute Scruggs, to whom the whistleblowers had given the documents that allegedly proved State Farm wrongly denied claims. Scruggs, who is suing State Farm, had turned the documents over to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

    Acker’s insistence in this case seems to defy at least the spirit of federal whistleblower laws and even common sense.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for Scruggs to have obtained this material, as many south Mississippians have turned to Scruggs for help after their claims were denied or low-balled, including even U.S. Sen. Trent Lott.

    Who’s doing wrong here? The victims?

    If the sisters saw documents that would indicate unfairness or illegality in an insurance company’s dealings with victims, it would seem they have a moral obligation to report it to someone.

    That’s why federal and state whistleblower laws were written, to protect those taking ethical action from retaliation.

    To be blunt, even heeding the letter of the law in regard to “theft” of documents, if the papers showed willful disregard for the misery of Katrina victims, would any jury convict them for trying to stop it?

    Sometimes, there’s justice, and sometimes there’s the law. It would appear Acker is pursuing the law at the expense of justice, and the victims of Katrina.”

  6. Russell, subprime and it’s fallout is the biggest dagger at all of us. Most people are generally aware of the problem because it has been mentioned on the news but very few people actually understand the issues.

    In any event this ruling makes Judge Acker look very foolish and that is despite Judge Vinson’s Scruggs and Hood conjecture contained in the order for dismissal, no doubt designed to help Judge Acker save face.

    sop

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