Scruggs Fights State Farm Deposition - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 01/30/08

Scruggs Fights State Farm Deposition

By Marsha Thompson

A battle is brewing between State Farm and Attorney General Jim Hood. State Farm wants indicted trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs, who worked with Hood's office on Katrina litigation, to answer questions under oath. But Hood and Scruggs' attorneys are doing their best to block that.

Hood and Scruggs have been closely aligned since Hurricane Katrina. Scruggs gave the attorney general information about insurers' practices in reviewing claims. A federal judge in Alabama ruled Scruggs violated a court order for providing Hood with so-called "whistleblower" documents allegedly taken by State Farm workers. Hood called Scruggs "a confidential informant" for his investigation and asked the charges be dropped.

In the latest developments, State Farm filed a bench memorandum Wednesday in U.S. District Court. State Farm argues that Hood, not Scruggs, is seeking to stop the deposition.

"That is very telling indeed," State Farm said in the memorandum. It further states that Hood is "clearly concerned that his co-conspirator will either tell the truth or invoke the fifth amendment on specific questions related to their extortion conspiracy."

We obtained email correspondence between Scruggs' attorney in California and State Farm attorneys. John Keker states Scruggs will not be deposed and if necessary he will assert his fifth-amendment privilege against self-incrimination. State Farm is arguing he should be deposed.

Echoing Scruggs' attorney's position is Hood's outside lawyer, Lawson Hester. In a January 29 letter to Magistrate Michael Parker, Hester argues Scruggs should not have to give sworn statements to State Farm, suggesting the insurance giant submit a list of questions.

State Farm attorneys fired back, stating they should not be required to submit questions in advance becuase that would tip off both Scruggs and his counsel and "present much opportunity for further mischief."

The legal posturing between two legal powerhouses is going down to the wire. We requested an interview with Hood. He declined but sent this statement:

"In an attempt to goad the media into writing another article about their suit, State Farm continues to add more irrelevant, inflammatory and frivolous allegations. I hope the learned members of the media recognize this fact and refuse to fall for their game."

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