Results matching “hood mississippi”

Jim Hood reelected - PointOfLaw Forum

Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood won reelection in a landslide. Radley Balko tweets: "Mass corruption of state's justice system never an issue. Race was about $400 dinner at a steakhouse." And Balko is surely talking only about the criminal justice system there, not Hood's cozy relationship with trial lawyers where he delegates litigation to them that helps out the trial bar far more than taxpayers, or his carrying water for the now-convicted Dickie Scruggs's illegitimate litigation against insurance companies over Hurricane Katrina. [LNL]

The Hood reelection shows the problem of many states' constitutional structure. Mississippi voters have elected a governor, legislature, and high-court judiciary willing to restore the rule of law to the state and attempt to end its reputation as a judicial hellhole, but because trial lawyers control the office of a down-ballot executive branch race, the voters' will and true justice reform is hindered. Reform is needed.

Jim Hood's coupon settlement - PointOfLaw Forum

Jim Hood's office trumpeted a settlement with Microsoft that provided 5 million $12 vouchers to Mississippi residents. Regular readers won't be surprised that less than 2% of the coupons were redeemed. Contigent-fee attorneys walked away with $10 million, but Hood's office treats voters like idiots when it claims that this didn't cost taxpayers anything because Microsoft paid for the fees. I'm quoted in the Legal Newsline coverage.

Another activist AG bites the dust - PointOfLaw Forum

Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute recently released a report, "The Nation's Worst State Attorneys General," identifying the six worst AG abusers of the rule of law. The list:

1. Jerry Brown, California
2. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut
3. Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma
4. Patrick Lynch, Rhode Island
5. Darrell McGraw, West Virginia
6. William Sorrell, Vermont

On July 15, Patrick Lynch dropped out of the Democratic race for the gubernatorial nomination in Rhode Island, no doubt anticipating the CEI dissection of his career.

On Tuesday, after 16 years as Oklahoma's AG, Drew Edmondson lost the Democratic nomination for governor, barely edged out by Lt. Gov. Jari Askins.

It's a good start, Hans!

UPDATE (1:45 p.m.): The Wall Street Journal examines Mississippi AG Jim Hood at length today as he again attempts to exploit the "plaintiffs bar-attorney general nexus," to bring BP oil spill litigation into state courts. It's a nicely thorough editorial, "Mississippi Justice on Email." But not a top six offender? Well, he'd make the top ten, Bader reports.


Washington Post has the scoop, "Linda Lipsen to become head of American Association for Justice":

Linda Lipsen, who has headed the group's advocacy and lobbying team for 17 years, was approved on Saturday by the AAJ board, officials said. Lipsen will succeed Tom Henderson, who held the job on an interim basis for the past year.

[UPDATE: 10:30 a.m. -- Here's AAJ's news release.]

Having searched unsuccessfully for a year to find a suitable replacement for Jon Haber, the AAJ's board must have decided the association could not go into an election cycle under an interim boss. The death of tort reform in federal health care legislation is a testimony to Lipsen's skill as a lobbyist, but to search for a year before picking an internal candidate suggests she's a fall-back choice. Lobbying acumen does not necessarily translate into organizational chops, which is important given the association's financial troubles, as reported last September by The Washington Times, "Trial lawyers lobby sinks $6.2M in debt."

First task: Referee these disputes. From The Biloxi-Sun Herald, "Group wants lawyers investigated":

Out-of-state attorneys and runners who work for them are soliciting clients for lawsuits over the oil spill. The Mississippi Association for Justice, an organization of attorneys who represent injured people, is asking Attorney General Jim Hood to investigate.

"We have heard numerous stories of businesses along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that are getting as many as half a dozen phone calls per hour from out-of-state law firms," the organization's president, Steve Mullins, said in a letter to Hood. Mullins said trial lawyers' associations in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas support the call for an investigation.

"We've all collectively had enough of this," Mullins said in an interview with the Sun Herald. "You can't just come into this state and just represent people willy-nilly. It's illegal. It's unethical."

It's our feeding frenzy. Stay out!

(We've edited this since its first posting to add the AAJ news release and make it read a little better.)

Around the web, December 8 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Searle Center at Northwestern releases new interim report on how creditor claims fare in arbitration and in court;
  • Previewing the Supreme Court arguments on "honest services fraud" law [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Trial lawyers ask Missouri Supreme Court to strike down legislated damage limits [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • Three Kane County, Ill. judicial candidates won't accept money from attorneys, are scoffed at by those who do [Daily Herald]
  • "Pigs get fat, Mississippi got slaughtered" in AG Hood's Zyprexa-pricing suit [Beck & Herrmann]
  • Jack McConnell of Motley Rice, picked by Rhode Island senators for federal judgeship, was generous political donor who recycled tobacco money into lead-paint crusade [Public Nuisance Wire and more, Providence Journal]

Hood rebuffed in Zyprexa case - PointOfLaw Forum

"Calling Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's lawsuit against Eli Lilly & Co. a 'slash-and-burn style of litigation,' the federal judge overseeing Zyprexa lawsuits has granted Lilly summary judgment." [LNL]

[Judge Jack] Weinstein wrote that a ruling in favor of Mississippi could have been dangerous.

"If allowed to proceed in their entirety, the State's claims could result in serious harm or bankruptcy for this defendant and the pharmaceutical industry generally," he wrote.

"For the legal system to be used for this slash-and-burn style of litigation would arguably constitute an abuse of the legal process. Constitutional, statutory and common law rights of those injured to seek relief from the courts must be recognized. But courts cannot be used as an engine of an industry's destruction."

Judge Weinstein did leave alive one of the state's claims. The drug maker has paid to settle the claims of numerous other states, many of them represented (as was Mississippi) by entrepreneurial Houston law firm Bailey Perrin Bailey. More: Beck & Herrmann, Longstreth/AmLaw Litigation Daily.

Around the web, June 12 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Wisconsin lawmakers drop proposed return of all-out joint and several liability, but governor signs into law big damages expansion in workplace litigation [WTMJ, WRN, Wisconsin Business, Insurance Journal]
  • Federalist Society Online Debate series tackles Employee Free Choice Act with Thomas Kochan and Patrick Szymanski pro, Richard Epstein and Eugene Scalia con [print version now online]
  • Motley Rice brief in Santa Clara case urges California high court to uphold contingency fees [Genova, part of a series on the briefs, more here and here]
  • Lawyers' insistence on punitive damages derails New Jersey push for bad faith auto insurance cause of action [NJLRA]
  • Mississippi AG Jim Hood extracts $40 million from Microsoft, and his contract lawyers should be happy too [Clarion-Ledger, N. Miss. Commentor] More: YallPolitics on settlement deal including roles of Susman Godfrey and Boies Schiller: first, second, third, fourth.
  • Behrens, Fowler, & Kim, "Global Litigation Trends" [Michigan State Journal of International Law, PDF courtesy Robinette/TortsProf]

Mississippi: don't you go peeking under the Hood - PointOfLaw Forum

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has filed arguments as to why the settlement agreement in State Farm v. Hood shouldn't be unsealed. Alan Lange and Tom Freeland comment.

Speaking of Freeland, a recent announcement of his provides what we must take as a case of "attorney/blogger makes good"; after years as a much-read observer of the Scruggs affair (at Folo and more recently Northern Mississippi Commentor), he's now been retained to represent one of the most mysterious and much-speculated-about principals in that affair, P.L. Blake.

Per Ben Hallman at American Lawyer, the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System gets around in securities litigation, the latest instance of which is its appearance as co-lead plaintiff against Royal Bank of Scotland, in which it's represented by Wolf Popper and Labaton Sucharow. Much more on the Mississippi fund from Andrew Longstreth at American Lawyer in the magazine's May issue (state's "active caseload has brought charges that [Attorney General Jim] Hood is essentially running a pay-to-play state"). More: Bloomberg.

A peek under the Hood? - PointOfLaw Forum

Mississippi blogger Alan Lange (YallPolitics) has filed to unseal court records in the politically explosive case of State Farm Insurance vs. Attorney General Jim Hood.

Around the web, March 17 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • "Advisen Releases 2008 Securities Litigation Study" [Kevin LaCroix, D&O Diary]
  • Time to reduce California's abnormally high interest rate on judgments [CJAC, more]
  • Litigation activity in China growing at rapid pace [AmLaw Daily]
  • Script we've heard before: Attorney General Jim Hood partnering with private lawyers to sue Entergy [Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal]
  • "Cal Supremes To Decide Impact of Proposition 64 In Class Action UCL Cases" [Cal Biz Lit]
  • "Effects of Payday Lending Regulations": the experience in Oregon [Todd Zywicki @ Volokh on Jonathan Zinman study]

Around the web, February 8 - PointOfLaw Forum

Judge tosses Hood Katrina-insurance suit - PointOfLaw Forum

A county judge ruled Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood never had standing to file the action (YallPolitics, O'Brien/LegalNewsLine, NMC @ Folo, ruling in PDF form). Separately, large numbers of private civil actions against insurers, including a high-profile batch filed by now-disgraced Dickie Scruggs, have quietly settled in recent months [Sun-Herald, Lotus @ Folo ("this may have been the easiest money Provost Umphrey ever made. But I'll wager that some local folks have entirely had it with lawyers.")]

Jim Hood settles State Farm case - PointOfLaw Forum

The Mississippi attorney general is spinning the settlement of his 2007 breach of contract action as some sort of triumph, claiming that it arm-twisted the insurer into higher Katrina payouts. As David Rossmiller notes, that means Hood winds up claiming credit for having "caused" events that in fact occurred before he filed his lawsuit. Call it backdating!

Scruggs and Rigsby update: dynamite depositions - PointOfLaw Forum

What other illegalities has Richard ("Dickie") Scruggs committed besides the one that's sending him to prison? According to the AP's Holbrook Mohr (via), in Scruggs's deposition in the ongoing McIntosh v. State Farm lawsuit, the insurer's attorneys "'alleged activity of a criminal nature against both of the Scruggses,' according to a motion filed Friday by an attorney representing Richard and Zach Scruggs," both of whom "invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer the questions, the motion said." Scruggs and son "want to prevent their sworn testimony in [the] Hurricane Katrina lawsuit from becoming public and 'undermining the presumption of innocence' if they face criminal charges in the future" -- that is to say, separate and distinct charges from those in the bribery scheme under which they are already headed to prison. More at Y'allPolitics here and here.

Excerpts from the questions State Farm lawyers unsuccessfully sought to ask Scruggs can be found in the comments at Y'allPolitics, and are truly eye-popping:

Q. And you knew that the Rigsbys -- one of the Rigsbys had stolen this document out of the State Farm file, and based on that information, you informed Attorney General Hood that he could subpoena those records from State Farm and the company would never be able to produce them; isn't that a fact?

Q. You did tell Attorney General Hood to subpoena this document from State Farm knowing that it had been removed from their files and could not be produced; isn't that a fact?

Q. And, in fact, that's exactly what occurred, isn't it? General Hood subpoenaed the document, State Farm couldn't produce it, and you were able to report to the press that they were shredding or deep sixing or destroying evidence that you knew they didn't have; isn't that a fact?

Q. That was part of a program which you euphemistically called the play book from tobacco, wasn't it?

Of course, we don't know what answers Scruggs would have given had he not taken the Fifth -- maybe he would have had innocent explanations for everything. More on the Mississippi AG connection here. For questions about Scruggs's skillful manipulation of ABC News and CBS News coverage, which allegedly included sending the networks copies of documents which were under seal in court proceedings and not to be disclosed, see excerpts here, here, and here. What did ABC and CBS know, and when did they know it?

Meanwhile, on another front, State Farm has filed with a court a couple of depositions given by co-workers of renegade insurance adjusters Cori and Kerri Rigsby. Anita Lee in the Sun-Herald has the story. David Rossmiller has a long, meandering, cruelly funny post on the Rigsbys and their lost illusions. "You'll be heroes," they told co-workers they tried to recruit for the scheme. "We are going to get a book deal. We're going to make a movie. ...We're going to be famous." After all, hadn't most of those things happened for Scruggs's paid informant/spy in the tobacco caper? Kerri Rigsby "wanted Sandra Bullock to portray her in the movie." Another apparently important name in the Rigsby saga, whose name has not much surfaced in news coverage before now, seems to be that of the sisters' mother, Pat Lobrano, who it is suggested helped the initially reluctant Cori overcome her misgivings, recalling inevitably to mind the Mama Rose character in the musical Gypsy.

Rossmiller also provides the following paraphrase of piquant matter to be found in the deposition of co-worker Dana Lee:

[Lee] talks about the supposed meeting Scruggs had with a State Farm "insider" in Bloomington [Illinois, the insurer's headquarters town], which he bragged about in a news story, and which turns out to be so much Scruggsian hot air -- he hired a guy to meet him at the airport and hand him an empty envelope to make it look like he was getting some top secret documents. I guess he had no qualms about staging this phony baloney stunt and then claiming it as real to the media, but then again, that's not so hard to believe about a guy who would bribe a judge.

Also discussed: the purportedly "Dickensian" associations of the law firm name of Provost Umphrey, which must surely owe something to Uriah Heep's protestations of being an "umble person" living in an "umble abode".

P.S. I had skipped reading the deposition of Zach Scruggs on the mistaken assumption it wouldn't contain anything newsworthy, but quite the contrary: one of State Farm's lines of questioning seeks to develop the theme that former Sen. Trent Lott (who of course wasn't present during the questions and, unlike Zach, hasn't invoked the Fifth) acted improperly in the litigation. The AP's Holbrook Mohr has details.

Jim and Walter have done an excellent job of covering the waterfront (Jim even quoted my criticism of the "Missouri Plan"!), so let me restrict myself to some additional thoughts they haven't addressed:

By John H. Sullivan

"Not only is a government lawyer's neutrality essential to a fair outcome for the litigants in the case in which he is involved, it is essential to the proper function of the judicial process as a whole."

These words by Justice Stanley Mosk in his 1985 People ex rel. Clancy v. Superior Court decision have been a beacon for public attorneys. They know, as he also wrote, that "without a belief by the people that the system is just and impartial, the concept of the rule of law cannot survive."

Last week, the 6th District Court of Appeal, in County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court , dismissed most of his decision as dicta. Mosk's opinion has long protected impartiality by prohibiting public prosecutors from hiring lawyers on a contingency fee basis. It is a powerful unanimous statement, joined by then Chief Justice Rose Bird and future Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas. When Mosk wrote of "the heightened ethical requirements of one who performs governmental functions," it was not as a theoretical observer. He served six years as attorney general before a remarkable 37-year career on the California Supreme Court.

The 6th District, in approving government lawyer contingency fee hiring of private lawyers in lead paint nuisance actions, distinguished Clancy from the Santa Clara case. It saw a lack of control by the city of Corona over private attorney James Clancy in a quaint contingency fee contract ($60 an hour for wins, $30 an hour for losses) to hassle adult bookstores. In Santa Clara, the justices found a different contingency fee situation where private counsel are "merely assisting" government attorneys and "lack any decision-making authority or control."

We don't know much about the Corona's control of Clancy because there's little discussion of that in the Mosk decision. But we don't know much for certain either about the various city attorneys' and county counsels' control over the private attorneys in Santa Clara - even though the Court of Appeal gives the topic lots of attention. The seven contingency fee agreements involving each city or county and its private lawyers evidently were control deficient. Most of the cities, counties and private lawyers submitted post-litigation declarations saying the government lawyers were in charge. The city of San Mateo never produced an agreement but wrote to the court that its in-house lawyers retained "complete control ... final authority," etc.

Oakland, which declared that "notwithstanding any documents suggesting the contrary," its city attorney retained complete control and is in the process of revising the contingency fee agreement "so that it reflects the reality of the relationship."

Pity a judge having to determine what's really going on, as Justice Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian in her concurring opinion proposes be done. She would have the agreements plus "the factual circumstances" and "the conduct of the plaintiff's counsel" be among the "many important factors in each case" that courts should henceforth analyze when approval of contingency fee agreements come before them. And come before them they will - in droves, once the contingency fee bar seizes the financial opportunities that lay in a new block of government clients.

Santa Clara focuses on nuisance actions. These will be a springboard. The lead paint cases originally included causes of action for fraud, strict liability, negligence and unfair business practices. If Santa Clara stands, we will soon hear why there's no reason to distinguish between nuisance actions and the others in contingency fee deals.

How these "public-private" cases are managed matters less than who chooses the case in the first place.

In Santa Clara we are not told how the governments and private firms hooked up. Were bids solicited? Or did the firms solicit the cities and counties?

For a dire example of where the latter can lead, look at Mississippi. There, plaintiff lawyer icon Dickie Scruggs brought his Katrina litigation plan to state Attorney General Jim Hood. Their joint contingency fee effort won $80 million in private lawyer profits from State Farm. Scruggs and his firm contributed more than $50,000 to Hood in the 2007 election cycle, according to Wall Street Journal research. The Journal found that over the past five years, Hood and 27 law firms jointly pursued state lawsuits against companies. Those firms gave Hood $543,000 in campaign contributions. Now Mississippi is looking at requiring competitive bidding for private lawyer hiring and limiting contingency fee deals to $1 million.

What might securities lawyers Bill Lerach, Melvin Weiss, et al., have tried, given their willingness to illegally pay clients, if California had not been protected by the Clancy decision?

South Carolina-based Motley Rice, a private firm in the Santa Clara case, boasts that its attorneys have "gained global recognition for their work on behalf of the State Attorneys General."

Our association's amicus brief in Santa Clara noted, without any inference of wrongdoing, that two other law firms hired by the cities and counties in the lead paint litigation made campaign contributions to San Francisco's city attorney, one of the Santa Clara parties. San Francisco's unique city/county status makes its city attorney an elected official, as are all district attorneys in the state. Everywhere else, city attorneys and county counsels are hired by city councils or boards of supervisors. The Civil Justice Association of California's review of contribution records turned up no Santa Clara case private attorney contributions to local elected officials in the jurisdictions involved.

Some county counsels and city attorneys argue they can't afford expensive litigation, that small counties are especially handicapped. But a major product or financial transgression is not going to occur just in Mariposa County. It will be discovered statewide. City and county counsel can combine and coordinate their efforts across jurisdiction lines - just as district attorneys do. Maybe district attorneys and the attorney general should handle these matters.

Our amicus brief recalls how California's attorney general joined with 49 other states in a tobacco public nuisance lawsuit but rejected offers from outside contingency fee lawyers seeking a piece of the action.

Following the 2004 passage of CJAC-sponsored Proposition 64 barring Unfair Competition Law claims by private lawyers without injured clients, the Daily Journal reported that "the plaintiffs' bar has been looking to team up with public prosecutors since the [initiative] limited private attorney general suits." It didn't happen. A Lockyer spokesman told the paper that "it's not a good idea having private lawyers running around with a badge."

This philosophy, flowing directly from Clancy and Mosk, runs strong in district attorneys' offices around the state. Note that neither the attorney general's office nor a single district attorney filed an appellate court amicus brief in the Santa Clara case.

During the plague of private lawyer shakedown lawsuits leading up to Proposition 64, district attorneys called attention to the important distinction between public and private enforcement of civil laws. This distinction, the Los Angeles district attorney's office pointed out in a brief in one of the auto repair shop B&P Code Section 17200 extortion cases, "is especially important in that the systemic checks and balances - including special ethical norms and the democratic electoral process - applicable to public enforcement officials do not apply to 'private attorneys general' litigating representative causes of action."

Mosk died in 2001 at the age of 88, on the very day he was planning to submit his retirement resignation to the governor. In a tribute to him before Congress, it was observed that "while his life has ended, his legacy shines brightly for all Californians and for our great Nation." The Santa Clara ruling has dimmed his legacy. The Supreme Court should restore it.

John H. Sullivan is president of the Civil Justice Association of California in Sacramento, a nonprofit association representing businesses, professionals, and local governments. Information on the association and civil justice issues is at www.cjac.org.

Around the web, Mississippi scandals edition - PointOfLaw Forum


Here are a few of the problems with activist AGs - PointOfLaw Forum

To be expected... you can't poke fun at the trial-lawyer front groups without eliciting a round of sneering and mockery in return, which is how the PopTort blog responds to yesterday's post about the Center for Justice and Democracy's "white paper" on activist attorneys general, "State Attorneys General: The People's Champion."

We thought the over-the-top enthusiasm of the authors for litigating AGs spoke for itself, but the front folk thought otherwise. Fair enough. So here are some substantive critiques of excessive litigation and activism by state attorneys general:

Coincidently, today's Wall Street Journal carries a relevant editorial, "A 'So-Called' Attorney General," reviewing the corruption and collusion that results when activist AGs get into bed with the plaintiff's bar.

Lawsuit legend and admitted felon Dickie Scruggs is headed for the Big House, but his methods are continuing to tarnish his partner in lawsuits, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Last week, Alabama federal Judge William Acker gave Mr. Hood a well deserved whack for colluding with the trial kingpin to evade a court order in a case regarding Hurricane Katrina claims.

"A so-called 'law enforcement official'" - PointOfLaw Forum

"Wow. Judge Acker found Scruggs and the Rigsby sisters jointly and severally liable for civil contempt and a fine of $65,000 in the Renfroe v. Rigsby case, relating to failure to promptly return the stolen State Farm claims files to Renfroe's counsel." Maybe stealing documents isn't such a good strategy after all? And that's aside from what the judge said about Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood -- which starts with the epithet quoted in the post title, and just gets more stinging from there. (David Rossmiller, Jun. 5; Anita Lee, "Judge fines Scruggs, Rigsby sisters", Biloxi Sun-Herald, Jun. 6; order, opinion PDF)(cross-posted from Overlawyered). More: U.S. Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine (Hood's response).

2 3 4