When a federal judge in New York ruled last week that a Mississippi court should decide a dispute over millions in legal fees in the state’s 2005 settlement with MCI, he also fanned a new flame from the embers of smoldering political fight that’s been ongoing in Mississippi since the early 1990s.
The outside counsel fight has been ongoing in Mississippi since the late Gov. Kirk Fordice and former Attorney General Mike Moore battled over Mississippi’s $4.1 billion tobacco settlement in the 1990s.
That political argument – that the state’s attorney general engages in litigation on behalf of Mississippi taxpayers against a corporate giant which has engaged in activities the AG deems detrimental to the state’s financial interests without input from the governor or the Legislature – was the beginning salvo in the state’s so-called tort reform wars.
Why? Fordice claimed that Moore failed to keep him apprised of the tobacco litigation or the ultimate settlement negotiations and that the tobacco litigation’s outside counsel just happened to be Moore’s largest campaign contributor – Dickie Scruggs.