Scruggs Asks Alabama Judge to Throw Out Katrina-Related Charge

September 30, 2007

Mississippi trial lawyer Richard Scruggs has asked a federal judge to throw out a charge accusing him of criminal contempt in a dispute related to insurance claims after Hurricane Katrina.

In court papers made public last week, attorneys for Scruggs and his law firm contend he was within the law when he gave Mississippi’s attorney general copies of sensitive papers related to storm claims that two whistleblowing sister had taken.

Special prosecutors accused Scruggs of contempt last month, saying he violated a court order by U.S. District Judge William Acker to give the documents to a claims adjusting firm that had filed a lawsuit and was seeking the records.

Scruggs’ attorneys claim he was allowed to release the records to the Mississippi attorney general under Acker’s order, so the charge should be dismissed.

Acker previously rejected a similar argument, but U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler is presiding over the contempt case.

The dispute comes in a lawsuit filed by E.A. Renfroe and Co. Inc., an adjusting firm that handled State Farm claims and fired the two whistleblowers after learning they had taken internal documents about post-Katrina claims.

Cori and Kerri Rigsby, sisters from Ocean Springs, Miss., say they copied thousands of pages of records to back up their allegations that State Farm wrongly denied claims after Katrina hit the coast in 2005.

Acker ruled that Scruggs, who both represented the sisters and employed them, wrongly sent documents to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to avoid returning them to Renfroe, a State Farm contractor.

A court appointed three special prosecutors to handle the case against Scruggs after the U.S. attorney in Birmingham, Alice Martin, refused to prosecute the lawyer. Scruggs’ lawyers contend two of the special prosecutors have conflicts of interest.

Information from: The Birmingham News

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