Scrugges ask Judge Walker to send State Farm to Judge Acker

Who wouldn’t in their place? With Judge Acker already mad as a hatter, it’s hard to find fault with the Scrugges for pointing out Judge Acker controls the documents copied by the Rigsby sisters – and that’s exactly what they do in this Reply in support of their opposition to Judge Walker’s order compelling them to turn over documents to State Farm.

Not that the Scruggses are unwilling, they remind the Court – just unwilling to do anything that puts them at risk of contempt in Judge Acker’s court.

…the Order of the Magistrate Judge appears to call for production of documents that may be subject to Judge Acker’s injunction. The Scruggses continue to object to any order that could put them in violation of Judge Acker’s December 8, 2006 preliminary injunction order. Judge Acker’s preliminary injunction specifically required the Scruggses to return the relevant documents to Defendant Renfroe and “not to further disclose” any documents “downloaded, copied took or transferred from the premises, files, record or systems of Renfroe or any of its clients, including, but not limited to State Farm Insurance Company…”

Judge Acker entered a protective order (October 10, 2007) describing the persons who may view the documents, requiring his consent for further copying of the documents, and providing that “[n]one of the Documents…may be used except in connection with this case…”. See Consent Order, attached hereto as Exhibit “F” (November 19, 2007). The Scruggses should not be placed in the untenable position of responding to a document request that they reasonably believe seeks documents that, if produced, could subject them to further contempt proceedings.

Rather than require the Scruggses to re-review and re-produce documents, State Farm should get the documents it wants from Renfroe, or State Farm should avail itself of the
procedure established by Judge Acker to obtain copies of the documents. This is not a procedure without precedence, as the Mississippi Department of Insurance has already been granted access to the documents upon application to Judge Acker.

The Scruggs again assert their Fifth Amendment right and say to do otherwise might result in their being held in contempt by Judge Acker.

State Farm’s arguments as to the Scruggses’ pending sentencing in the Northern District of Mississippi (i.e., that a guilty plea removes any further risk of self-incrimination) is legally incorrect, and ignores
the fact that the Scruggses’ Fifth Amendment rights remain intact through sentencing…

To be clear, the Scruggses would not oppose either of these methods of discovering the information. State Farm’s desire for the Scruggses to produce documents does not overcome the burden on the Scruggses of reproducing these documents or override their Fifth Amendment rights. The Scruggses’ assertion of their Fifth Amendment rights in response to State Farm’s subpoenas is based on a genuine concern about the use of the Scruggses’ production of responsive documents as a basis for increased criminal sanctions or additional criminal contempt prosecutions.

However, they recognize one very narrow point.

The only concrete basis articulated by State Farm in support of the discoverability and possible relevance of the documents it now seeks from the Scruggses is on this very narrow
point: these documents, State Farm argues, will lead to discovery of evidence “concerning chain of custody”. Response, at 8.

This tenuous claim does not outweigh the burden to the Scruggses arising from, among other things, the risk of self-incrimination and a burdensome review of documents that it has already produced and that are available from other parties.

At the very least, if the Court affirms any part of the Magistrate Judge’s Order, it should limit the scope of production, and of any depositions that may be taken of the producing witnesses, to the chain-of custody question only – the sole basis for which State Farm now argues that these non-parties should be forced to produce the requested documents.

…and, then add a reminder –

Aside from its chain-of-custody argument, State Farm states that it “wonder[s]” what documents are in the possession of Scruggses. Response, at 1. State Farm may not obtain documents from the Scruggses merely to satisfy its curiosity.

Surely, Judge Walker knows that neither State Farm nor the Renfroes have been without the originals of these documents – and, more importantly, that neither the Scruggses or the documents are relative to the McIntosh case.

h/t bellesouth for the documents : )

5 thoughts on “Scrugges ask Judge Walker to send State Farm to Judge Acker”

  1. That is priceless, Nowdy. There are some on the internet who also claim that State Farm knows when the documents were accessed, so they should know what documents were accessed. All they need to do is go through their own files. Hell, as you say, they have the originals. That would take care of the chain of custody dispute too. Hey, why don’t they cough them up and produce them to the Court. They seem so worried about the plaintiffs in Shows, (see post up above) I bet the plaintiffs here would appreciate it enormously. With all the money they pay out for PR and lawyers and you know how the shareholders own the company, too, I am sure the shareholders would appreciate their spending the money on system resources to uncover the documents themselves so they can help the plaintiffs who were shareholders, too.

  2. Sure they know, they have a computer system that tells them who, what, when and from where documents are accessed.

    Some have speculated the problem is they’re worried they’ll miss one and show up in court with an altered document.

    I’ve done a good bit of reading about Renfroe btw – they’ve gotten a lot of bad advice IMO. This business of talking “steal” instead of “unauthorized” has hurt them – seems like a nice business just looking at their website but you can be aggressive without being offensive.

    State Farm is a different breed of cat – they need to be thinking about their Agents – all of them – not just the ones that are friends of yours, mine and Sop. They’ve gone too far in their effort to disqualify attorneys and it reflects on their agents, fair or not, and they’re the ones that are our good neighbors, friends, and family – folks we all care about a lot.

    Didn’t mean to get off on all that but your reference to shareholders flipped my switch on something I think about a lot.

    Bottom line, belle, I’m with Judge Senter – there’s been too much of this “talk” – SF/Rigsby need to shut it down and let these cases that won’t settle go to court – and that Alabama mess, gosh, maybe Lysol…it’s really just awful.

  3. State Farm is a mutual company and is technically owned by it’s policyholders. It is also the personal piggy bank for the Rust family which has run State Farm continously since 1954.

  4. You’re kidding – I realize you’re not but has it just been the one man or is he 2nd, 3rd generation guy at the top?

    Doesn’t sound too “mutual” to me – definitely shouldn’t take a court order for him to figure out “chain of custody”

  5. At the Fotune 500 level you don’t see so much family control like State Farm Nowdy.

    Ironically, the Greenberg trio of Maurice “Hank” and his two sons not long ago sat on top of a huge chunk of market share but Elliot Spitzer diminished that empire some. Our readers may recall Marsh and McLennan was recently involved in the criminal fallout from price fixing.

    I personally believe the mutual form of organization is a dinosaur that should be discarded.


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