Breaking News – Judge Senter denies State Farm Motion to Dismiss Rigsby qui tam!

It is abundantly clear that Richard Scruggs and the SKG used formidable public relations resources, including use of The Rendon Group, in an effort to control the public perception of the issue at the heart of this qui tam action, i.e. whether State Farm deliberately mischaracterized wind damage as flood damage in assessing claims under the insurance policies it was adjusting. As far as the wind damage claims are concerned, these attorneys were acting well within their rights as advocates for their clients who had homeowners policy claims. These attorneys were not free to disclose the existence of this qui tam action, and had their improper disclosures (Items 3,7, and 12 above) led to accounts in the public media indicating that such an action was underway, the government’s ability to investigate the Relators’ allegations might well have been compromised. But that is not the case disclosed in the record before me.

State Farm’s Motion to Dismiss the Rigsbys’ qui tam case (for violations of the seal order) was among those motions argued at the recent Status Conference. Today’s uncharacteristically long Memorandum Opinion on Judge Senter’s denial – the 14 page Scribd document at the end of this post – is the first Judge Senter has issued on those motions. One of the more surprising aspects of his decision is his consideration of the partial lifting of the seal that took place on Order of Judge Walker in January 2007:

The first question I must consider is the effect of the partial lifting of the seal on January 1, 2007. At the time Magistrate Judge Walker entered his order partially lifting the seal, this action had been filed and sealed for some seven months. In partially lifting the seal, the Court authorized the Realtors to make disclosures concerning this action to judicial officers presiding in the Alabama litigation. The order partially lifting the seal does not specify that the judicial disclosures themselves be made under seal, and this order could therefore be reasonably interpreted to authorize these judicial disclosures in pleadings and other documents distributed to the litigants and their attorneys in the Alabama litigation. This type of disclosure would effectively make the original seal of the qui tam case moot. In these circumstances, I consider the relevant period of the seal to be from April 26, 2006, (the filing of the original FCA complaint) through January1, 2007 (the partial lifting of the seal).

State Farm identified a total of 48 incidents the Company claimed as violations of the seal order on the Rigsby qui tam complaint. One item alone (#48) required the Court to review a “106-page compilation of e-mails concerning media contacts”. Judge Senter’s Memorandum Opinion lists all, starting on page 1 and continuing until page 8, concluding with, “State Farm contends that the disclosures reflected in these documents constitute such egregious violations of the FCA’s seal requirement, 31 U.S.C. §3730(b)(2), that dismissal of this action is justified. Judge Senter, obviously, thought not: Continue reading “Breaking News – Judge Senter denies State Farm Motion to Dismiss Rigsby qui tam!”

In this episode of Magnum J.D.: Magnum is Magnanimous, Donates 4717 St Charles Avenue to Charity.

Our spies are literally everywhere and no detail goes unnoticed, especially this one from page 10 of the real estate transfers in the T-P:

St. Charles Ave. 4717: John W. Houghtaling II to Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, donation, no value stated.

And this from the PRCNO website:

The mission of the Preservation Resource Center: To promote the preservation, restoration, and revitalization of New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods.

We at the PRC believe that preserving a city’s architecture is tantamount to preserving its soul. New Orleans would not be the city we love today without the past successes of the PRC, and it is critical that we maintain our staunch defense of the city’s rich architectural legacy. In post-Katrina New Orleans, it is particularly crucial that we rebuild in a way that is sensitive to our past, or we risk losing everything that makes our city unique.

This sounds like a charitable remainder trust or something similar.  With all the controversy and such surrounding Magnum this could be a way to cement in his use of the mansion and shield it from would be creditors. Or it could be that he is just a swell guy and Kevin Costner’s good qualities are rubbing off on him.  I personally think it may be the former rather than the latter.


JP Parish Attorney takes the gloss off the Times-Picayune paint job on River Birch

So much for the Times-Picayune’s effort to revirginate Jefferson Parish Council President John Young.  Good Government’s Margie Seemann took the gloss off the T-P’ attempt to paint the Parish Council out of the picture of corruption framing the River Birch contract with her response to Parish Attorney Peggy Barton’s that-law-is-just-a-suggestion-letter.

After reviewing the provisions of Jefferson Parish Code of Ordinances Section 2-895, the evaluation committee for RFP 176 should have included a representative from the Purchasing Department. However, the fact that there was no such representative on the committee would not in and of itself be grounds to make the subsequent contract, which resulted from the RFP process, illegal or invalid.

I call bullshit.   Ms. Seemann, on the other hand, simply called Barton out point-by-point in her September 15th reply to Barton:

In your response to me, you said, “It should be noted that the evaluation committee does not award any contracts; it merely advises the Jefferson Parish Council, which is then free to award as it deems best for Jefferson Parish, regardless of what the committee recommends.”

Since the evaluation committee did not have the members required by the Code of Ordinances, the Jefferson Parish Council did not receive the advice which is legally required in order for them to make a decision on the award of the River Birch landfill contract. Continue reading “JP Parish Attorney takes the gloss off the Times-Picayune paint job on River Birch”

Diving accident claims life of State Farm attorney James Robie (dates corrected)

James Robie, 61, a partner in the Los Angeles firm Robie & Matthai, was State Farm’s top gun in Katrina litigation.  Robie represented State Farm at the January 15 12, 2011 Status Conference on the Rigsbys’ qui tam litigation and died the following day Sunday while making making a certification dive near Catalina island.

Although word just reached SLABBED today, his death was report in the San Francisco Chronicle and on Legal Pad.  The Metropolitan News-Enterprise , a Los Angeles daily, ran a longer story, as well as a recent update announcing plans for a memorial service on the 30th and a website with details and a guest book. recognizes him as both the “fierce adversary” we came to know in Katrina litigation and a man with “deep love and loyalty to his family and friends”. Condolences to his friends and family.

In Other News…..

The gang over at the Jefferson Report has two stories up that bear mentioning beyond the mentioning in comments last week.  The staff there has an excellent report on the River Birch scheme which ran under the lede Suckers! that is a great read. In addition to that, Jeremy Alford breaks down delinquent Ethic Commissions fines in his post Past Due!.

Jason Berry aka The American Zombie checks in with part 2 of his series on the mortgage mess over at NOLA Civil District Court at Humid Beings where he blows the lid off the incompetence and greed which lead to the crash, including an especially clueless judge with the last name Landrieu. I can almost visualize the Judges eating good at the courthouse cafeteria talking about how their 16 year old kids could handle the courthouse IT department. It is a story of incredible incompetence that is also a must read.

If I missed anything please leave a link in comments.