Gary Anderson, Democratic nominee for Insurance Commission, has had the misfortune of watching his largest benefactor, Dickie Scruggs, charged with criminal contempt of court by special federal prosecutors in Alabama.
A more full explanation of the legal issue behind this can be found at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
In June, federal judge William Acker recommended that the Justice Department prosecute Scruggs and his law firm for civil contempt after allegedly violating a court order about handling of documents in a case relating to Hurricane Katrina insurance claims. (For Law Blog background on the case, click here and here; here’s Judge Acker’s original memorandum and order.)
After the Justice Department declined Judge Acker’s invitation to prosecute Scruggs, the judge named Birmingham lawyers Charles Sharp and Joel Williams, both of Sadler • Sullivan, to serve as special prosecutors in the case.
How was the judge able to do that? He invoked Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to appoint the independent lawyers A trial-court judges prosecutorial power was explained by Justice Brennan in a 1987 Supreme Court decision. “The Judiciary must have an independent means to vindicate its own authority without dependence on another Branch to decide whether proceedings should be initiated.”
Finally, here’s a link to the actual indictment from the WSJ.