I thought Phillip Thomas at Mississippi Litigation Review nailed one of the more recent developments in the State Auditor’s Office public records contempt hearing being heard before Judge Schloegel in Gulfport. The point is short n’ sweet and dead on accurate:
State Auditor Stacey Pickering is asking the U.S. District Court to bail him out of a mess of his own creation.
And this gets us to today’s comprehensive update by Karen Nelson and Justin Mitchell for the Sun Herald on yesterday’s Chancery Court proceedings before Judge Schloegel that ties in with that:
Schloegel stopped the civil contempt hearing, in its second day Friday, so all parties could participate in a conference call with Hattiesburg U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, who is assigned the federal case.
Also participating in the call were attorneys for indicted former DMR Director Bill Walker and his son, Scott Walker, and other DMR managers indicted in the federal investigation of the DMR.
During the call, Starrett said he had concerns about how it would fit into the investigation if his office found the records are public. Those concerns included the defendants’ right to a fair trial, if there are any grand jury secrets in the documents, and how disclosure might affect any other “targets” of the grand jury investigation.
Early on, when the first indications surfaced that former Assistant US Attorney Sal Perricone engaged in certain extracurricular no-no’s with respect to the massive corruption investigation then underway in Metro New Orleans, certain sage observers predicted the criminal defense attorneys would use it to the benefit of their clients and it worked out exactly that way. I mention this because although we have a far different fact set in play here, if you take what the Sun Herald put out on the social media real time during the two days of hearings at face value, my spidey senses tell me the spectacle is helping rather than hurting the five former DMR employees charged with state crimes that resulted from the year long investigation conducted by the State Auditor’s office. The concerns Judge Starrett expressed were not from any first hand knowledge of the contents of the records at question but from experience IMHO.
Here is the text of the minute entry from PACER on the call:
Minute Entry for proceedings held before District Judge Keith Starrett:Telephone Conference as to William W. Walker, Scott J. Walker, Joseph C. Zeigler, Jr, Sheila Tina Shumate held on 12/6/2013 regarding Expedited Petition to Authorize Release of Records and for Direction . The Court informed counsel of guidelines for their responses to the Petition. All responses are due by December 18, 2013. Participants: Jerry Rushing, John Dowdy, Harold Britain, William Kirksey, Arthur Madden, Corban Gunn, Joe Sam Owen, Tim C. Holleman, John Corlew, Henry Laird, Harold Pizzetta, Douglas Miracle, Melissa Patterson, David Huggins, Joseph Runnels, Sandra Chesnut; Court Reporter/Transcriber Fred Jeske
Next up we need to jump back a few weeks and solve a minor mystery of the Federal case against the Walkers, Joe Ziegler and Tina Shumate. Warren Kulo’s story from last month on the gang’s first court appearance for the Mississippi Press sets it up: Continue reading Looking for love in all the wrong places: A DMR public records debacle update