Katrina Attorney Scruggs Facing Contempt Charges

August 22, 2007

Special prosecutors charged prominent Mississippi attorney Richard F. Scruggs and his law firm with criminal contempt Tuesday in a Hurricane Katrina insurance dispute.

A motion to summon Scruggs and the Scruggs Law Firm was also filed Tuesday by the prosecutors, who requested that the court schedule an arraignment in the contempt of court case.

Calls by The Associated Press to Scruggs and his son, Zack, who is a partner in the firm, were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. District Judge William Acker ruled in June that Scruggs “willfully violated” a Dec. 8 preliminary injunction that required him to deliver “all documents” about State Farm Insurance Co. that whistleblowers Cori and Kerri Rigsby secretly copied after Katrina.

Last month, Acker named Charles E. Sharp and Joel Williams to serve as special prosecutors in the case after U.S. Attorney Alice Martin declined the judge’s request to prosecute Scruggs and his firm.

Acker’s ruling came in a suit by E.A. Renfroe and Co. Inc., a claims adjusting firm that handled State Farm claims and fired the Rigsbys after finding out they had taken internal documents about the claims.

Instead of complying with the December injunction, Acker said Scruggs promptly sent the documents to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s office “for the calculated purpose of ensuring noncompliance with or avoidance” of the injunction.

The Rigsbys, from Ocean Springs, Miss., have admitted copying thousands of pages of records to back up their allegations that State Farm wrongly denied claims after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

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