Legal Ethics

Scruggs to Challenge Special Prosecutors in Hearing Next Week

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Mississippi plaintiffs lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs will be arraigned next week on a criminal contempt charge for failing to return documents related to State Farm’s handling of Hurricane Katrina claims.

Scruggs got the documents from two sisters who worked for a State Farm contractor. Rather than returning them, he gave them to Attorney General Jim Hood.

Scruggs’ lawyers will argue for dismissal of the charges during the arraignment before a federal magistrate, the National Law Journal reports. One of their contentions is that a federal judge’s appointment of three special prosecutors to consider charges against Scruggs violates separation of powers.

The judge, William Acker Jr. of Birmingham, Ala., appointed the prosecutors after the U.S. attorney declined to bring charges.

Scruggs also claims the special prosecutors have a conflict of interest because they represent defendants that Scruggs is suing in another case. And he claims that Acker, a hard-line conservative judge, is not neutral.

One of the special prosecutors, Michael Rasmussen, disagreed that his appointment was improper. “The procedure and authority of the court to take such actions has been recognized for centuries,” he told the NLJ.

The prosecutors suggest that Scruggs has close financial ties to the attorney general and his predecessor. Their court papers say Scruggs gave Hood $44,000 in campaign contributions and earned $1 billion in tobacco litigation fees from former attorney general Mike Moore.

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