This morning, Attorney General Jim Hood wrote an op-ed piece in the Clarion Ledger trying to turn the tide on public perceptions of his actions since the November elections related to the Dickie Scruggs matters. This follows on the heels of a Friday WLBT interview granted with Marsha Thompson. It is pretty obvious that Hood is trying to reach out directly in the public and trying to spin that he’s the victim of, in the words of Hillary Clinton, a “vast right-wing conspiracy”. Apparently, he shares Mr. Scruggs disdain for bloggers as he mentions “bloggers” and “pundits” in negative contexts his piece.
Hood pushes some political buttons, which is to be expected. But towards the end of the article, he flagrantly misrepresents the truth of what happened in State Farm vs. Hood. He states . . .
In fact, allegations lodged against me by this insurer (State Farm) were shown to be false when a federal judge recently threw out a lawsuit it had filed against my office. And due to our efforts, the company now claims to have paid an additional $70 million to Coast homeowners.
I don’t dispute the last sentence. It’s a good thing that State Farm paid more to claimants. But in the first sentence, Hood would have us believe that the suit was “thrown out” by a judge. Typically, when we think of a judge “throwing out” out or dismissing a lawsuit, it is because the plaintiffs fail to make their case entirely. That public perception button is obviously the one Hood is pressing. However, State Farm v. Hood was settled. In fact, Judge Bramlette found, as a matter of law that (1) his court had jurisdiction and (2) the agreement between State Farm and Jim Hood’s office was indeed valid and enforceable.
Judge Bramlette dismissed the case from the docket as a techical matter, but in his order, which everyone should read, “a confidential settlement agreement” is referenced multiple times.
From the Judgement of Dismissal.
. . . the Court now finds that it has jurisdiction over this action, and that the January 23, 2007, letter agreement (“Letter Agreement”) between Attorney General Jim Hood and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (jointly, “State Farm”) is a standalone agreement, unambiguous and enforceable between the Mississippi Attorney General on behalf of the State of Mississippi and State Farm, and any of its current and former employees, directors, engineers, agents, counsel and adjusters. The Court further finds that, based on a confidential settlement agreement between the parties, which shall remain under seal, this case shall be dismissed with prejudice. The Court retains jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement.
As a matter of law, the case has to be “dismissed with prejudice”. Otherwise, one side or the other could choose to re-litigate and therefore it’s not really a settlement. And technically, the allegations were not shown to be false. Read the State Farm complaint yourself. Both sides simply settled the case with the Court’s approval, and the Court expressly reserved the right to intervene again should either side not live up to the settlement.
Jim Hood cannot plead ignorance here. Truthfully, he has to know better. Though he is certainly entitled to project his interpretation to the public however he wants, I personally would not be out in the public view misrepresenting an order from a federal judge to sound like something it’s not. And if he was so confident that State Farm’s allegations were “false”, why settle only hours after he “beclowned” himself on the stand.
If Jim Hood really wants to dispel any doubt as to what really happened in that courtroom, I believe he could choose to unseal that “confidential settlement agreement”. In any event, expect to hear more from General Hood in the coming days and weeks as he tries to salvage a bona fide public relations and political disaster. The question is whether or not TV, print and radio will continue to give him a pass.