Dickie Scruggs criminal contempt charges have been dismissed in Alabama.
I have not had time to yet read the order, but here it is for everyone’s review.
From the order . . .
The special prosecutors next argue that, even if the injunction can be read to
permit the shipment to law enforcement instead of Renfroe’s counsel, Scruggs is
still criminally liable because the transaction with Hood was a “sham.” I agree that
there is a cloud of suspicion surrounding the agreement between Scruggs and
Hood. Scruggs claims that he and Hood believed the documents would be returned
to Renfroe and State Farm in violation of the protective order, but he does not
explain the basis for this concern. Moreover, even if the concern was well-founded
in hindsight (as he now argues, see Doc. 7 at 7 n.3), he does not explain how that
disclosure to Renfroe would have, or did, impede the criminal investigation. He also
does not explain why he did not take his concerns to Judge Acker instead of
making after-hour and weekend agreements with Hood. The timing of these events
and of Scruggs’s other cases involving State Farm (one of which was settled just
10 days before the Attorney General returned the documents to counsel for
Renfroe) is another reason to be suspicious, as is Hood’s unusual letter to United
States Attorney Martin, suggesting that Scruggs not be prosecuted for contempt
because he was a “confidential informant.”
However, the fact remains that Scruggs did not violate the clear and express
terms of the injunction. Again, as then-Judge (now Justice) Stephen Breyer has
observed, courts must read injunctions “to mean rather precisely what they say.”
NBA Properties, supra, 895 F.2d at 32. The injunction specifically and precisely
said the documents could be given “to law enforcement officials at their request.”
Regardless of the subjective intent that Hood may have had when he requested the
documents, the undisputed fact is that he did make such a request. The objective
language of the injunction expressly authorized the law enforcement exception, and
it must be recognized here. Criminal contempt under such circumstances cannot be
supported under the law.
hattip Insurace Coverage Blog