"The road not taken"

“Two roads diverged…and…I could not travel both…and be one traveler…long I stood…and…looked down one as far as I could”

When Sop and I reached the fork in the road and one lead to slabbed.org, circumstances required that I follow “the road not taken”. I hope it’s not a one-way street but it will be some time before I know. Please follow Sop to slabbed.org and know that I’m with you in spirit and, in the future, may see you there.

With love to the SLABBED nation, hope for the success of slabbed.org – and unending support for the two women who stood up for those slabbed by Katrina when it counted and made a difference, Cori and Kerri Rigsby


To plea or not to plea? Mouton made his decision

Here we go, folks!  The Times-Picayune reports Henry Mouton begins plea talks to resolve landfill bribery charges! Paul Rioux has the story:

Henry Mouton, a former state Wildlife and Fisheries commissioner, is trying to negotiate a plea deal to resolve federal charges that he took $464,000 in bribes from a rival landfill owner in a conspiracy to close the Old Gentilly Landfill, according to a court filing Tuesday.

Mouton’s attorney cited the plea talks in a motion seeking to postpone an April 21 pretrial conference and a May 9 trial date.

“A plea agreement has not been finalized and defendant desires to continue the pretrial conference and the trial date to allow the completion of these discussions,” wrote attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who said prosecutors support postponing the court dates until after May 15.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman had not ruled on the motion by the close of business Tuesday evening, according to online court records.

Slabbed reports. You tell us who is sleeping well tonight!

just absolutely a class act – Judge Senter corrects the record (a Rigsby qui tam update)

“It has come to my attention that my Memorandum Opinion Concerning State Farm Fire and Casualty Company’s Motion To Dismiss For Relators’ Violation Of Seal Order, Docket Number 871, contains a factual error stated at the top of page 11 and repeated near the bottom of page 13. The opinion states that the Relators have previously been represented by the Scruggs Katrina Group, and this is not the case. Relators were previously represented by The Scruggs Law Firm, LLC, and not by the Scruggs Katrina Group. By this order, I am amending this Memorandum Opinion to correct this error.”

The Order makes no mention of how this matter came to his attention. My guess is from his exceedingly careful reading of documents he’s reviewing before deciding matters currently before the Court. Not that he wouldn’t otherwise, but Don Barrett’s recently filed Motion for Fees pointing out “defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” from Katrina litigation and piling  on more work for an already overworked court staff in the process.

In that regard, I suspect – actually I hope – Judge Senter will do as he’s done in the past and allow a document to be filed once and referenced in all briefs thereafter. My experience reading briefs in ex rel Rigsby is like reading the first chapter of a newly purchased Agatha Christi and realizing you paid for a new cover and title to a book you’d already read!

My hope and Agatha aside, Judge Senter’s Order clearly documents his intent to ensure everything about ex rel Rigsby v State Farm accurately reflects the facts of the case. The text revised as a result of his correction is below the jump. Continue reading “just absolutely a class act – Judge Senter corrects the record (a Rigsby qui tam update)”

Hey, Phil, "Ours is a nation of laws, not judges"

from CottonMouth via the folks at Y’all:

This afternoon in a closed door meeting of Republican Senators, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant told the crowd that 5th Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones would “take care of” legislative Republicans because Gov. Haley Barbour handled her nomination to the 5th Circuit when he was in the Reagan White House. Bryant went on to regale the caucus with his opinion that Chief Judge Jones would likely appoint Judge Leslie Southwick as the judge from the 5th Circuit, and that if that happened, “Democrats would come to us looking for a deal.”

The Lt. Governor’s remarks on redistricting reminded me of this jewel in my drafts file: (h/t Above the Law)

… neither this court, nor any other court, can tolerate a situation where a judge decides to follow his/her own custom and concepts of justice rather than the precedent of the applicable appellate court or the United States Supreme Court. Ours is a nation of laws, not judges.

All for now, Nowdy

Surely not – the "new normal" on Mississippi's post-Katrina Coast

Although not as often as I’d like, I grab my camera, visit with the Sop family and revisit places that I saw while on the Coast providing disaster assistance following Hurricane Katrina.  I took these photographs March 26 and, as I reflect on what I saw, I’m reminded of how little has changes since my August 2008 SLABBED post Not what you see but what you don’t…the post-Katrina coast.

“Three Six years after Katrina, it’s the rebuilding that we don’t see that is contributing to what we can’t see – the mental health of those whose tomorrows are like their yesterdays. Hope – slabbed.” Continue reading “Surely not – the "new normal" on Mississippi's post-Katrina Coast”

“defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” – a lawyer’s perspective on Katrina litigation

“This is one of those cases where people see the verdict and the motion and think about all the money that the plaintiff’s lawyers will make. But the defense lawyers will make as much or more than the plaintiff lawyers while taking no risk. Equally as important, the defense lawyers have been banking their money for years while the plaintiff lawyers have to collect to fill a big hole.” (emphasis added)

In a comment to Katrina plantiffs win a big one, I mentioned Phillip Thomas at the Mississippi Litigation Review blog also had a post on Penthouse Homeowner’s Association v Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London.

Thomas’ blog is one of my daily reads and his most recent post on the case, Winning Plaintiff in Katrina Wind vs. Water Trial Requests $3.5 Million in Attorney’s Fees, Expenses and Interest, provided both the title and introductory quote of this post as well as a link to Plaintiffs’ attorney Don Barrett’s Motion (in Scribd format below with Exhibits added by SLABBED)

Barrett made a strong argument in support of his request for $3.5 million in fees, expenses and interest – and a “must read” IMO for attorneys on both sides of the bar.  However, what struck me as even more interesting was this paragraph in Barrett’s Affidavit documenting his personal history of litigation as justification for his $450 hourly rate:

I am presently lead counsel of the Katrina Litigation Group, a consortium of lawyers who represent hundreds of homeowners along the Mississippi Coast who were victimized first by Hurricane Katrina and then by their insurance companies. To date our group has favorably settled over 1,600 homeowners’ claims Continue reading ““defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” – a lawyer’s perspective on Katrina litigation”

Capella plays “hat trick” on Grand Jury!

Capella, the council chairman, declined to discuss specifics of his nearly two hours on the witness stand. “I want to honor the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings,” he said.  “But I will say that I answered every question they had about the previous administration for me as a witness.”

“Ohhhh. Ayeeye”Sop put the black hat on the spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sopranos – but let’s not forget that it was Council President Tom Capella who stood on his hat box and played a hat trick on the Grand Jury.  Sure thing, Tom, anyone can see there is no relationship between the members of the current Parish Council and those of the “previous administration”!  Not even the revirginating John Young could sell that!

Post-hearing briefs filed in Heebe-River Birch v USA

No time at the moment to do more than get these up for the SLABBED-nation to read.  Have it at! The USA’s brief follows and the Heebe-Ward-River Birch brief is below the jump.

[scribd id=51480856 key=key-vkt9glrlfdnlxtjekf9 mode=list] Continue reading “Post-hearing briefs filed in Heebe-River Birch v USA”

Mississippi makes list of 10 top states – for highest auto insurance rates – but Louisiana roars in at #2!

According to a just-released ranking of state-by-state costs from the web site Insure.com, average rates in the most expensive state—Michigan—are two and half times as high as in the cheapest state, Vermont…

After Michigan, where the average rate is $2,541 a year, the second-highest rates are in Louisiana, where drivers pay an average of $2,453. Three other states had average rates above $2,000 a year: Oklahoma, Montana, and Washington, D.C.

No surprise to see Mississippi or Louisiana at the top of the list of states ranked by auto insurance rates – but it was somewhat surprising to see the reasoning in the story:

The high rates are roughly correlated with the proportion of uninsured drivers in a state, often in violation of state law. Uninsured drivers still have accidents, and their liability and personal injury costs are passed on to the rest of the state’s drivers through higher insurance rates. In Oklahoma, nearly one-quarter of drivers on the road are uninsured. Economically hard-hit Michigan had 17% of drivers with no insurance and Louisiana 12%. “It’s an economic problem. They just can’t afford the rates,” says Marc Eagan, president-elect of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana. (emphasis added)

Continue reading “Mississippi makes list of 10 top states – for highest auto insurance rates – but Louisiana roars in at #2!”

Judge Wingate gets it – will Judge Biggers? UPDATED

“Minor and former Harrison County judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield must be resentenced because a federal appeals court vacated their bribery convictions in 2009. The appeals court upheld other convictions, including honest services fraud convictions against each of the men and Minor’s racketeering conviction. Now Wingate is considering motions to vacate the remaining convictions because higher courts have limited the scope of honest services fraud.”

The Sun Herald reports, “U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate delayed the resentencing Monday in Jackson so he can take more time to consider pending motions seeking to throw out all of the convictions in the case.

Judge Wingate gets it! I suspect a lot of others, including a lot of lawyers, don’t – or, more likely, don’t want the law applied in USA v Minor or USA v Scruggs. Minor’s attorney, David Debold of the Washington, D.C., law film Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher…said he knows it’s not easy for a judge to reverse a case this late but it’s the right thing to do in the wake of the high court decision limiting the honest services statute”.

Initially, Minor et al were also convicted of federal funds bribery under 18 U.S.C. § 666. Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward “Chip” Robertson cited the reversal of those convictions in a brief recently filed on behalf of Zach Scruggs:

…contrary to the Government’s naked assertion, the fact that Judge Lackey was not an agent for federal grant is properly before the Court because that means that Petitioner is “actually innocent” of the 18 U.S.C. § 666 crime alleged in the Indictment See Petition, D.E. 303 at 10-11 (discussing Whitfield v. U.S., 590 F.3d 325 (5th Cir., 2009)).

Both of these cases were very painful for members of the legal profession.  However,  the legal profession’s deafening silence in the face of the 5th Circuit and USSC decisions is painful to those up us who believe none are above – or below – the law.  Equal justice is not a popularity contest!


UPDATE 3-24-11

Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant Paul S. Minor’s Motion to Vacate Convictions (12/17/10)

Defendant Paul S. Minor’s Submission of Supplemental Authority Regarding Motion to Vacate (3/14/11)

Government’s Response to Defendant Paul S. Minor’s Submission of Supplemental Authority Regarding Motion to Vacate (3/17/11)