Today, one day before the deadline, Attorney General Jim Hood’s office filed a response to a request by Jackson New Media, Inc.’s motion to unseal the settlement agreement in State Farm v. Hood. That request was joined by WLBT, WDAM and WLOX.
Though very quickly in the motion, Assistant Attorney General Harold Pizzetta said, “Although the Attorney General has no other opposition to the Motion to Intervene, as an officer of this Court, the Attorney General is required by those duties and ethical considerations to apprize the Court of” all the procedural reasons the Court should not grant the relief.
Their argument was twofold. One, they argue that the Jackson New Media’s request isn’t timely. We very clearly dealt with the timeliness issue in our Memorandum of Support.
New Media’s filing of this motion comes in light of a very reasonable cooling off period of just over twelve months for the original parties. As the Court will recall, the underlying litigation prior to settlement was marked by considerable emotion on both sides, and had New Media sought leave to intervene for the unsealing of the settlement agreement immediately in the aftermath of its entry, matters would only have been further inflamed. As the Fifth Circuit has noted, New Media should not be punished for tardiness in seeking to intervene. 18 F.3d at 1205. To the contrary, New Media’s restraint in waiting a reasonable time after settlement in this case should be lauded, in view of the relief that New Media will seek if granted leave to intervene.
The second objection they raised is that Judge Bramlette no longer had jurisdiction. They said that the case in question has to be “an existing suit within the Court’s jurisdiction.”
From the Judgment of Dismissal, citing the settlement agreement, Judge Bramlette stated, “FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Court retains jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement between the parties.”
Tom Freeland at NMC has his own take on today’s filing.
In a response filed today, Jim Hood says he really doesn’t care if the court unseals the order settling the case where State Farm sued him over the grand jury investigation. Doesn’t matter to him a bit. But he really wants the court to know there are such good reasons to keep those documents under seal. And what reasons are those? Well, it seems as if there are two: One is that the wait has been too long, and that there isn’t a case any more to intervene in to ask for the documents. Oh, and then there are all those reasons that the court sealed the settlement in the first place, reasons that are still just as good when the sealing was done! Of course, we won’t tell Jackson New Media or anyone else what those reasons were, because they’re all under seal!
In full perspective, the AG’s office waited the maximum amount of time to layout all the procedural reasons why the media should not have access to this settlement agreement executed on behalf of the state and tell the judge, “We really don’t look like we’re objecting, but please don’t let the media have this for all of the following reasons . . . ”
UPDATE – Late Monday evening, State Farm filed a response to Jackson New Media’s original motion saying, in effect, that nothing has changed and that they will continue to respect the Court’s directives. However, they did not object to New Media’s motion nor did they provide any procedural reasons why Jackson’s New Media’s request should not be granted.
We will, of course, continue to stay on top of this.