Judge: Sanctions against Pickering, Hood and state attorneys warranted

GULFPORT — Chancery Judge Jennifer Schloegel on Monday denied Attorney General Jim Hood’s request to set aside her May ruling that the DMR and State Auditor’s Office willfully violated the Public Records Act, warranting sanctions against Hood, Auditor Stacey Pickering and assistant attorneys general involved.

The State Auditor’s Office is appealing Schloegel’s ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court. On behalf of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Attorney General Jim Hood asked Schoegel to reconsider.

Private attorneys are now defending Pickering and his investigators, the auditor’s office, the DMR and the assistant attorneys general. Hood is represented by Special Assistant Attorney General Margaret Parish Ellis.

Hood’s request, Schloegel wrote, amounted to “an effort to split hairs” and only reinforced her belief that Hood and his assistant attorneys’ general engaged in “manipulative legal maneuvering” from the start.

The Sun Herald fought in court for 17 months for DMR business records. Schloegel ruled at the end of a trial that the records were public because they had not been compiled during the course of an auditor’s criminal investigation of DMR, as claimed by Pickering and assistant attorneys general representing both agencies.