Scruggs, Minor, and some legal odds and ends (pun intended) – Nielsen, Wilson, Robie and Tort Reform

The “drafts file” is overflowing (again) and time is short (again) – nothing to do but pull a handful of things I think worth a mention and go for what Sop has called a “round-up” post.

First up is an update on Young v Scruggs – brief because the case is stuck on proper service of the summons issued to Dick Scruggs, a discussion I passed on recenty when reporting Defendant’s Rebuttal.  What’s happened since the, however, is more interesting.  First, the defendants fied a Motion to Strike Purported Summons that basically restated the argument Scruggs was not lawfully served and there was a pending motion to dismiss on that basis.  Next, plaintiffs pop up and file Notice the summons has been reissued – and on that same day, according to the docket,  defendants filed anAmended Motion to Strike that cites and attaches a recent Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on the subject that’s worth a look.

The latest news on USA v Minor (Whitfield and Teel) makes for interesting reading – so did the recently filed Motion for Rehearing that was sitting in drafts when most media had the story up.  Here’s the Motion and here’s the latest:

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28(j), Paul Minor notifies the Court of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC, No. 08-205 (Jan. 21, 2010). That decision clarifies that the jury instructions in this case, which allowed the jury to convict the defendants of honest services fraud for campaign contributions made with only an intent to influence and without any quid pro quo, violate the First Amendment. h/t Legal Schnauzer (entire letter posted there)

Now, news on the “odds” – the first “odd” appears to be Gerald Nielsen or, more accurately, Mr. Nielsen appears to be odd – long on ego but short on memory.  However, his remark in the recent Branch qui tam hearing before Judge Vance was certainly unforgettable – It would be morally correct to sue the homeowners to collect the overpayments.  Never mind the fact that some would claim it’s morally incorrect to say such a thing,  it’s ethics that folks should be talking.

A qui tam Relator stands in the place of the government, a frequent client of Mr. Nielsen’s in the form of the NFIP  – which translates to Mr. Nielsen in position of representing  defendant WYO company(ies) in case with the  government – and NFIP – as plaintiff.  Sop kindly put a copy of the WYO legal guide on Scribd for me – check it out if Mr. Nielsen’s involvement in the Branch qui tam strikes you as more than just a little odd.

Next, another piece of the always odd news about Wilson (Wilson v Scruggs).  Wilson’s attorneys asked the USA for permission to visit Scruggs, Langston, Balducci and Patterson in prison and take depositions.  One could call it a fact finding mission; but, the truth is it’s a treasure hunt.  Wilson wants the money Peters forfeited when he negotiated immunity in the case that sent former judge Delaughter to prison.  No links for you but there was a related Notice about the deposition of Patterson on the Wilson v Scruggs docket.

Odd becomes odder when the government’s position is considered; i.e., Wilson has no standing to claim the forfeited funds.  Since the case against Delaughter relied on the jurisdictional authority the 5th Circuit recently tossed in USA v Minor, it appears the government, too, lacks standing – and not just standing to claim the funds, either.

So. who does have standing to claim the money? Could be the cash-strapped State, Delaughter’s employer.

Last – and appropriately so, is news from the “ends”.

The first “end” news up makes me want to delete Tort Reform and change the title from “odds and ends” to “nuts and butts” because – just keep reading and you’ll figure it out. Yesterday’s docket for the Rigsbys’ qui tam case showed none other than the horse- head – in -your-bed Don of Depositions featured in “I decided law was the exact opposite of sex; even when it was good, it was lousy” has filed for pro hac vice admission to represent State Farm in ex rel Rigsby v State Farm.

Although the application of James R. Robie shows he checked “no” to the question Has Applicant been formally disciplined or sanctioned by any court in this state in the last five years, he has only Judge Walker to thank for what should have been “yes”.

The first question on the form attorneys complete for Pro Hac Vice admission asks:

Has Applicant had a prior or continuing representation in other matters of one or more of the clients Applicant proposes to represent and is there a relationship between those other matter(s) and the proceeding for which Applicant seeks admission?

Robie’s response follows:

I have previously appeared as co-counsel for State Farm Fire & Casualty Company in Mclntosl: v. State Farm, Case No. l:06cvl080-LTS-RHW, which was dismissed by Judge Senter on September 15, 2008. Iam familiar with damages in that case which are the central issue in this Qui Tam litigation.

He should be familiar with the “damage” in McIntosh v State Farm – he caused a lot of it.  McIntosh counsel Tina Nicholson wrote of one event in a letter to Judge Walker:

…State Farm violated the court’s order, using the depositions as a fishing expedition in an attempt to extract information about the Scruggses’ privileged communications with their clients, the McIntoshes; the Scrugges’ internal law firm communications about the McIntosh case; and the Scruggses’ strategy in the McIntoshes’ case.

In just one bold example out of hundreds, State Farm probed for details of the Scruggses’ discussions with their clients, the McIntoshes, about a possible settlement of the case. State Farm spent hours of those depositions trying to get attorney client communications and discover the work product of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys about the case, clearly violating the very limited scope of the depositions as allowed by the court.

Robie’s appearance  indicates State Farm plans to defend the Rigsbys’ allegations of fraudulent claims handling with the Company’s counterclaim.  Anyone thinking otherwise or that Judge Senter’s order of a separate trial on the counterclaim should also remember to put the tooth under their pillow tonight – and that Judge Walker is State Farm’s “tooth fairy”.

The end of the ends is a brief mention of Tort Reform with h/t to Y’all for the link to Miss. damages cap also being challenged in federal court.

A Mississippi law capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits is being challenged in a federal court in Seattle by a plaintiff who recently won $3.2 million.

A federal judge found the G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., liable for a stroke suffered by Melvin Eason that put him in a near-vegetative state. His daughter, Bridgette Jeffries, alleged the staff miscalculated the dosage of an anti-clotting medication used to treat his venous thromboembolic disease.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik wanted to award Eason and Jeffries $1 million in non-economic damages, but lowered it to $500,000 because of the Mississippi law, passed in 2002.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that the cap on damages discriminates between slightly and severely injured victims of medical malpractice…

The issue is currently before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Since I’m reporting on the case with no opinion other than it’s important, it is not only the end of the ends and the end of this post – the WYO legal guide follows:

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2 thoughts on “Scruggs, Minor, and some legal odds and ends (pun intended) – Nielsen, Wilson, Robie and Tort Reform”

  1. Given what is in the WYO handbook I have a question, especially since I seem to remember seeing a transcript where Mr Nielsen said he represented something like 99% of the cases involving the NFIP. This is a SCREAMING conflict of interest. Beyond Nielsen who in the court would police this? Is it up to Kanner or should the court itself recognize it and boot him? What is the procedure? I’ll take email replies as well. My addy can be found on our contact page.


  2. Agree with you but can’t answer your questions. However, only a fool would appear before Judge Vance with such a glaring conflict of interest. IMO, “you can play games with some in the NFIP and GAO some of the time and some in the NFIP/GAO all of the time but you can’t play games with Judge Vance any of the time and not expect to get caught”.

    Remember the lawyer who called her husband about a case and the clerk she discovered had past ties to a case. She went public in a flash on both when the more expected reaction would have been to deal with the matters privately (assuming the ethics to deal with either situation). Just a guess but I bet both of those guys go mute at the mention of her name!

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