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Jim Hood

New questions about the work in a shaken-baby-conviction case of Steven Hayne, the controversial state medical examiner whose work has been much defended by Mississippi Attorney General and perennial Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood. [Radley Balko, Washington Post; earlier on Hayne and on shaken baby cases]

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June 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 12, 2014

  • John McGinnis: As information technology disrupts the legal profession, will lawyers’ clout decline? [City Journal]
  • Law schools, especially of the more leftward persuasion, collecting millions of dollars in cy pres lawsuit diversions [Derek Muller]
  • Who’s still defending embattled medical examiner Steven Hayne? Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, for one [Radley Balko, earlier here, here, here]
  • Life in America will become more drab if Campaign for Safe Cosmetics gets its way [Jeffrey Tucker via @cathyreisenwitz, earlier on "CPSIA for soap"]
  • LSAT settled with DoJ demands re: disabled accommodation back in 2002 and again just now, and the differences between the two settlements tell a story [Daniel Fisher, earlier] Some prospective students will be losers [Derek Muller]
  • “‘Swoop and Squat': Staged car accidents, insurance fraud rise in L.A.” [Los Angeles Times]
  • Toughen duty for California psychiatrists to inform on dangerous patients? Awaiting backfire in three, two, one… [Scott Greenfield]

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It’s being led by our perennial-favorite state-AG mentionee (D-Miss.)

Meanwhile: Houston judge reported to have issued what law professor Josh Blackman calls “blatantly unconstitutional” gag order requiring Google not only to remove all records of certain allegations against an individual, but also to refrain from discussing the gag order itself [Houston Chronicle]

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Now this is bound to end well: Mississippi lawmakers vote to give Attorney General Jim Hood, a frequent mentionee in this space, his own strike forces [Radley Balko, AP]

August 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2013

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Following through on a deal announced a year ago, former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, representing the state under an arrangement with current Attorney General Jim Hood, has now sued BP over damages from the giant Transocean Gulf oil spill. [WaPo, YallPolitics, Sid Salter/Jackson Clarion Ledger] The two figures have long been entwined with each other — and both with now-disgraced Gulf Coast attorney Dickie Scruggs — in litigations that leverage the power of the state to the advantage of private lawyers, including the Great Tobacco Robbery of the late 1990s and Katrina claims.

Peeking under the Hood, cont’d: Mississippi has finally passed sunshine legislation exposing to public scrutiny dealings of its attorney general with outside law firms, which can make large sums in contingency arrangements representing the state [Maggie Haberman, Politico] Not exactly unrelatedly, a Mississippi court has ruled that a settlement of the state’s case against MCI can’t funnel $14 million separately to private lawyers representing Hood on the theory that it was just a side payment and never represented public funds [YallPolitics, earlier on now-disbarred lead private lawyer in case]

The cozy dealings between the state of Mississippi and well-connected private lawyers — especially the way the state comes to hire those lawyers on contingency fee to pursue high-ticket suits against outside defendants — have long furnished grist for this site. Now, opening a new chapter, Mississippi AG Jim Hood has hired former AG Michael Moore, like Hood a longtime Overlawyered favorite, to sue BP over the effects of the Transocean oil spill on the state. [AP, YallPolitics] Per YallPolitics, “Interestingly, there is no specific financial arrangement. Moore and Hood contractually agree to work it out later and have fees paid directly by BP to the as yet to be named legal team led by Moore.” When Moore hired later-disgraced Dickie Scruggs to represent Mississippi what was to develop into the most profitable litigation in history — the multistate tobacco caper — the financial details were likewise shrouded in secrecy, and it was later claimed that there was no written agreement.

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If Attorney General Jim Hood wanted to avoid the impression that he was thick with the Scruggs crowd, he probably shouldn’t have had them vet his response to the Wall Street Journal before he sent it off. [David Rossmiller, earlier]

August 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 29, 2008

  • One for your “firefighter’s rule” file: firefighter perishes in blaze, his widow sues security alarm company [SF Chron, San Pablo, Calif.]
  • And another: Nassau County, N.Y. cop injured by drunk driver while on duty is suing the county over Long Island Expressway design and signage [Newsday; Kenneth Baribault]
  • Stop fighting over the $60 million in fees, judge tells feuding lawyers, your lawsuit has been over for four years now [Legal Intelligencer, corrugated paper antitrust class action]
  • Public-health prof: red-light cameras “don’t work” and instead “increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop” [Bruce Schneier via Instapundit]
  • Criminal prosecution of political attack ads? Time to rethink campaign finance law [Bainbridge]
  • Teenagers send each other racy cellphone videos, and then their legal nightmare begins [Des Moines Register]
  • Sounds interesting but haven’t seen a copy: “How To Get Sued: An Instructional Guide” by well-known blawger J. Craig Williams [Giacalone, Ambrogi]
  • Mississippi AG Hood goes after MillerCoors over caffeinated alcohol drinks, but Anheuser-Busch hired Mike Moore and sprang big for DAGA, hmmm [Alan Lange, YallPolitics]

Prosecutors Gone Wild

by Ted Frank on July 25, 2008

[A] large deal of the gleeful Spitzerfreude on Wall Street arose from of the poetic justice of Spitzer’s undoing at the hands of the same extra-judicial tactics he regularly used against Wall Street firms and corporate executives when he was attorney general of New York. The real scandal of Spitzer’s career was not so much the former Girls Gone Wild model as the prosecutors gone wild.

My retrospective of Eliot Spitzer as both archetype and victim of overaggressive prosecutors in the July/August American Spectator is now on line at the AEI website.

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“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). More: U.S. Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine (Hood’s response).

Some developments of the past ten days or so:

* In major blow to defense, Judge Biggers denies motions to suppress wiretap evidence and evidence of similar bad acts [Rossmiller]

* Balducci says he and Patterson got $500K from Scruggs to influence AG Hood to drop indictment of State Farm, motive being to advance civil settlement [Folo]

* WSJ gets into the act with some highlights of wiretap transcripts [edit page; earlier here]

* Sen. Trent Lott says he’s a witness, not a target, of federal investigation [Anita Lee, Biloxi Sun-Herald]

* Scruggs off the hook on Alabama criminal contempt charge [WSJ law blog, Rossmiller, Folo]

* “Mr. Blake has served for many years as a conduit and a layer of separation, if you will, between Mr. Scruggs and other people on sensitive issues.” (Balducci transcript highlights, Folo; more)

* In effort to get Zack Scruggs indictment dismissed, his lawyers dwell on switch from “y’all” to “you” as implying shift in persons addressed from plural to singular [Folo first, second; Rossmiller first, second; on a "sweet potatoes" point, NMC @ Folo and sequel; also]

* DeLaughter/Peters branch of scandal reaches deep into Jackson legal community [Adam Lynch, Jackson Free Press]

* Article in new American Lawyer notes that Scruggs’s ambitious suits have lately hit a big losing streak, notably those against HMOs, nonprofit hospitals and Lehman Brothers [Susan Beck]. And Lotus catches an interestingly lawyerly wording on John Keker’s part [Folo]

* I’m quoted and this site is discussed in an article on blog coverage of the case; my lack of clarity as an interviewee probably accounts for Scruggs being said to have addressed audiences at the Manhattan Institute “a few” times, when if memory serves the correct reference is “twice”. [Patsy Brumfield, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo) @ Folo]

* For more background see our Scandals page; also YallPolitics.

Outsourcing, With a Kicker

by Peter Morin on February 25, 2008

In the state of Mississippi during the last 5 years, 27 law firms have been retained by Mississippi Attorney General James Hood to purse state lawsuits on contingency. Those firms have collectively donated more than a half-million dollars to Hood in the last two election cycles. Apparently, the legislature is troubled by this combination of for-profit motivation and campaign fundraising, and has passed a bill to pursue competitive bidding before signing contracts of more than $500,000 with private lawyers. It also requires a review board to examine contracts, and it limits contingency fees to $1 million.

Hood isn’t pleased — and the WSJ has his number:

Should state Attorneys General be able to outsource their legal work to for-profit tort lawyers, who then funnel a share of their winnings back to the AGs? That’s become a sleazy practice in many states, and it is finally coming under scrutiny — notably in Mississippi, home of Dickie Scruggs, Attorney General Jim Hood, and other legal pillars
This kind of quid pro quo is legal in Mississippi and most other states. However, if this kind of sweetheart arrangement existed between a public official and business interests, you can bet Mr. Hood would be screaming about corruption. . . . A decision to prosecute is an awesome power, and it ought to be motivated by evidence and the law, not by the profit motives of private tort lawyers and the campaign needs of an ambitious Attorney General.”

That leaves a mark.

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Big news day in the Scruggs scandals: a judge has turned down defense motions to throw out the charges and to suppress the evidence, a hearing on those motions has showcased the testimony of government informant Tim Balducci, and the government in responding to the motions has released extensive and often quite damning transcripts of the wiretap conversations among the principals. Folo as usual provides the most in-depth coverage, with posts on the judge’s rulings here and here, on the hearing and Balducci’s testimony here and in numerous preceding posts, and on the wiretap transcripts here and in numerous preceding posts. David Rossmiller is on the judge’s ruling here, and on the hearing and transcripts here. More: Patsy Brumfield, NEMDJ, was at the courthouse.

Picking through the rich contents of the transcripts and Balducci’s testimony is going to keep Scruggsians busy for a good long time. In the meanwhile, some odds and ends:

* Want to review all the major events of the central alleged bribery case, skillfully narrated in chronological sequence? Of course you do. Folo’s NMC has it in six parts beginning here and ending here (follow links to find those in between).

* John Grisham’s “Too Dumb for Dickie” theory encounters some serious strain [Rossmiller and again]

* Mississippi legislature won’t give AG Jim Hood authority to wiretap his enemies suspected white-collar criminals. Gee, wonder why that might be? [WLBT via Lange] Plus: description of Hood as a Pez dispenser coughing out multi-million-dollar cases for his chums [Rossmiller]

* More unpretty details surface on Scruggs’s (and other lawyers) use of informants in Katrina litigation [Rossmiller] and tobacco [Lange]

* More Hood: prosecuting the accused judge-bribers “would be like prosecuting a relative” [Salter, Clarion-Ledger, Rossmiller, Folo]. Give back tainted money? “That’s up to DAGA [Democratic Attorneys General Association]” [Lange]

* Former Louisiana attorney general Richard Ieyoub gets a mention, as does Sen. Trent Lott [Folo, same] Update: feds investigating what Sen. Lott knew [WSJ]

* Small world, Mississippi: member of arbitration panel that awarded Scruggs huge fees was later hired by the tort potentate for legal work [Lange]

* Blogosphere has been a major source for breaking news on the scandal [LegalNewsLine]

* Liberal columnist Bill Minor recalls when a certain Sen. McCain let Dickie Scruggs and Mike Moore run their tobacco lobbying campaign out of his Hill office [NEMDJ via Folo; more at PBS "Frontline" and NY Times]

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David Rossmiller—indispensable for matters Scruggsian—has the details of a Judge Michael Mills’s displeasure with Dickie Scruggs’s refusal to submit to a deposition in State Farm’s lawsuit against state attorney general Jim Hood. Scruggs will likely plead the Fifth Amendment for his interactions with the attorney general—which does not reflect well on that attorney general.

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* Pertinacious Scruggs effort to evade deposition by State Farm attorneys results in “testosterone fiesta” of swaggering counsel (Folo; sequel; YallPolitics; Rossmiller); (P.S. Yes, Ted and I independently noticed and posted on this just minutes apart.)

* Remember when Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood declared his political patron Scruggs a “confidential informant”, thus throwing a most useful cloak of protection over him in his battle against contempt charges? It happens that Scruggs was at almost exactly the same moment donating large sums to the Democratic Attorneys General Association which seem to have passed through like a dose of salts to emerge at the other end as donations to Hood (YallPolitics; earlier on DAGA)

* Attorney Ed Peters, tagged with a pivotal role in Langston-DeLaughter branch of scandal, was formerly high-profile local D.A.; his prosecutorial vendetta against an attorney named J. Keith Shelton comes in for scrutiny in a new series by Folo proprietor Lotus [#5 in series; posts tagged Peters; see also YallPolitics]

* Folo co-blogger NMC, looking into Luckey and Wilson fee disputes (earlier here, here, here), is rattled by the prevalence of hearings-without-notice, ex parte judicial contacts, and other Gothic proceduralisms [Folo];

* Implications or non-implications for civil proceedings of Scruggs’s taking the Fifth [White Collar Crime Prof Blog]

* Adam Cohen of the NYT and Scott Horton of Harper’s claim defendants in precursor Minor-Teel-Whitfield scandal were railroaded on vague charges over not-really-illegal stuff; read pp. 6-9 of the indictment and see whether you agree (YallPolitics);

* For Mississippi, it’s already the most far-reaching corruption scandal in a century, aside from the question of how much bigger it might get [Jackson Clarion-Ledger]

Earlier Scruggs coverage on our scandals page.

As a number of commentators have noted (e.g. Brett Kittredge @ Majority in Mississippi, Alan Lange @ YallPolitics), Booneville attorney Joey Langston, who just entered a guilty plea on charges of judicial corruption, is someone accustomed to throwing the weight of his pocketbook around in Mississippi politics. In particular, he has been among the biggest donors to incumbent Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, even as Hood employed Langston and partner Tim Balducci on contract to handle the controversial MCI tax bill negotiations, with their resulting $14 million legal fees payable to Langston et al, and the potentially very lucrative Zyprexa litigation.

Equally interesting in some ways, however, are Langston’s activities on the national political scene. To take just one example: this CampaignMoney.com listing tabulates the top “527” contributions to a group called the Democratic Attorneys General Association, whose political and electoral mission is implied by its name. In the listing, two donors are tied for first place, with contributions of $100,000 apiece. One is the large Cincinnati law firm of Waite Schneider Bayless Chesley, associated with one of the country’s best-known plaintiff’s lawyers, Stanley Chesley. The other $100,000 contribution is from Joey Langston.

In presidential politics, Langston has recently been a repeat donor to the quixotic (and, since Iowa, defunct) campaign of Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a lawmaker whose high degree of seniority on the Senate Judiciary Committee makes him important to ambitious lawyers whether or not he ever attains the White House. When the Scruggs scandal was still in its early stages, the WSJ law blog (Dec. 10) noted that two key figures in the affair, Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson, were strong backers of the Biden campaign: “Their bet on Biden was that he wouldn’t win the presidency but would become Secretary of State under a Hillary Clinton administration, according to two people familiar with their thinking.” The Journal reprinted (PDF) an invitation to an Aug. 10, 2007 fundraising reception for Biden at the Oxford (Miss.) University Club, sent out above the names of six hosts, three of whom (Scruggs, Balducci and Patterson) were soon indicted. Scruggs, of course, is better known for his support of Mrs. Clinton, a fundraiser for whom he had to cancel after the scandal broke.

Campaign-contributions databases such as OpenSecrets.org and NewsMeat indicate that Langston has been a prolific and generous donor to incumbent and aspiring Senators across the country, mostly Democrats (Murray, Cantwell, Daschle, Nelson, etc.) but also including a number of Republicans who might be perceived as swing votes or reachable, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Me.), and Arlen Specter (Penn.)

Incidentally, some critics have intimated that Langston’s generous support to DAGA, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, should actually be interpreted as a roundabout gift to Hood, who was the beneficiary of interestingly timed largesse from DAGA. It does not appear, however, that any of the parties involved — Langston, Hood or DAGA — have acknowledged any connection between the timing of the donations (& welcome Michelle Malkin, David Rossmiller, YallPolitics readers).

[Second of a two-part post. The first part is here.]

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