Jackson New Media, Inc., the publisher of the Mississippi online political website Y’all Politics (YallPolitics.com), filed a motion last week to unseal the 2007 federal court case of State Farm Insurance vs Attorney General Jim Hood. Raycom Media, the owner of three Mississippi televisions stations – WLBT in Jackson, WLOX of Biloxi, and WDAM of Hattiesburg – joined in with supporting motions to intervene before U.S. District Court Judge David Bramlette.
In the case, State Farm sued General Hood for failing to abide by previous agreements and questioned him under oath in a Natchez courtroom. That testimony is not sealed, but the settlement and other materials currently are not accessible by the public or the media.
Hood’s testimony in the suit provides and interesting read. At one point, there is some confusion in his answering of questions and he testifies, “I’ve tried 100 jury trials, but I’ve never been a witness” and noted that in the confusion he had even raised his left hand instead of his right hand when being sworn in. Judge Bramlette responded, “I know you know your left hand from your right one.”
As this column has previously written, Hood’s testimony also discusses a dinner he had with Timothy Balducci and Steve Patterson. Balducci has since testified before a federal grand jury in Oxford that Dickie Scruggs promised a payment of $500,000 to him and Patterson if they could convince Hood to drop his criminal investigation of State Farm so the insurer would agree to a civil settlement worth $20 million in attorney fees. Hood denies they attempted to coerce or influence him. Hood has not been implicated in that Oxford-based investigation.
Throughout his testimony, Hood referenced Assistant Attorney General Courtney Schloemer, saying she, as the lead attorney on this matter, could better answer the questions. Hours after Hood’s testimony but before State Farm could call Schloemer as a witness, the two sides reached a settlement.
Brian Perry, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at [email protected]
Madison County Journal