Judge: Media can seek State Farm settlement records

Hood had asked Bramlette to deny the request. The agreement has been kept under wraps by court order since it was reached in February 2008, and at one point Hood’s office denied to reporters that it even existed.

Bramlette said in his order that the media outlets were seeking to challenge the confidentiality of the settlement, not merits of the lawsuit.

The settlement was reached after State Farm sued Hood, accusing him of using the threat of criminal prosecution to force settlements in civil suits of Katrina claims. Hood denied the allegation.

Hood claimed the federal court had no authority to open records on a closed case and that the reasons the “testimony and settlement agreement were sealed are equally applicable now.”

State Farm also asked the court to keep the records under seal.

“This is just another example of the media’s vital role to provide the public critical information on important state government workings,” WLBT news director Dennis Smith said in a statement.

AP
3/26/10