Legal Ethics

Fed'l. Judge and Mississippi AG are in Name-Calling Contest

Although recommending no civil or criminal penalties, a federal judge didn’t hold back when he criticized Mississippi’s attorney general, Jim Hood, in a written opinion issued yesterday. In no uncertain terms, he reportedly says Hood went too far when he allegedly helped Richard Scruggs, a prominent Mississippi plaintiffs attorney who has since been disgraced, evade a court order concerning confidential insurance company documents related to Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. District Judge Acker calls Hood a “so-called law enforcement officer” in the opinion, which concerns Scruggs’ handover of the documents that two clients had obtained from a former employer to Hood, rather than to the former employer’s lawyer. But that may not be the worst of it: “This court now finds by a preponderance of evidence that, in context, General Hood was not a bona fide ‘law enforcement official,’ but rather was a co-conspirator with, and an aider and abetter of Scruggs,” the judge says at one point in the opinion, reports the Clarion-Ledger in an article reprinted by the Hattiesburg American.

However, not to be outdone, Hood issued a press release today calling for Acker, who sits in Birmingham, Ala., to revise “uncalled-for derogatory conclusions” in the opinion, reports the Associated Press.

He also had a few other points to make, the Clarion-Ledger writes:

“The rules of judicial performance do not allow a court to engage in unnecessary attacks on officers of the court, particularly when they are not even parties to the litigation,” Hood states. “This judge interfered with a grand jury investigation and we believe that either he, an appellate court, or the Alabama Commission on Judicial Performance will remedy this situation.”

He plans to file a motion requesting that Acker revise his Thursday opinion, according to the newspaper.

Almost lost in the war of words is the $65,000 civil contempt penalty Acker did impose in his order against Scruggs and his two clients. For more details, read this Sun Herald article.

Additional and earlier coverage:

Wall Street Journal Law Blog: “Spat Between Mississippi AG, Alabama Federal Judge Heats Up” “Scruggs Says He’ll Accept Suspension Over Disbarment” “Long Live the King of Torts?” “US Attorney to Judge: No Scruggs Case” “Judge: Scruggs in Criminal Contempt”

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