Alan Lange wins the 1st step to a victory on open government in State Farm v. Hood

Long ago and far away (do people around here still remember this??), State Farm sued Jim Hood, alleging that it had resolved a case with Hood and that Hood was violating the terms of the settlement by threatening State Farm with further grand jury proceedings about State Farm’s handling of Katrina claims.

These claims came to a head initially in hearings about a preliminary injunction in early November of 2007, just before the state elections and (ominously) just before the indictment of Dickie Scruggs in late November of 2007. It was just before I started blogging about all this.

In early 2008, these matters were proceeding on such a number of fronts as to rival World War II. There were various cases in north Mississippi involving Scruggs (the Jones case in which he attempted to bribe Judge Lackey, the criminal cases arising out of that bribe attempt), the caes against State Farm in the gulf coast, including cases both public (insurance claims against State Farm) and not public (the qui tam case against State Farm), along with the ultimately unsuccessful contempt cases in Alabama involving the Rigsbys and Scruggs.

One major sideshow in all this became the lawsuit State Farm filed against Hood relating to their erstwhile settlement. There were wild-and-crazy satellite proceedings, particularly one before Judge Mills about whether Scruggs was going to be hailed into a deposition and forced to take the Fifth Amendment. The upshot was a hearing in Natchez before Judge Bramlette in which Hood was pretty severely cross-examined, after which the case quickly and quietly settled. It was immediately clear that State Farm had got what it wanted– there were no further proceedings against it– but, because the settlement was under seal, partisans of Hood continued to argue he’d really and truly had a victory. Many observers (including this blogger) were dubious.