We’ve covered this topic before, but Mike Masnick at Techdirt has a slew of revealing new details on how Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood acted as cat’s paw for Hollywood studios in his legal battles against Google. Former Mississippi attorney general Michael Moore, another longtime Overlawyered favorite, plays a key role in the story as well. Our coverage of Hood’s work over many years is here.
Who’d have guessed that movie studios would entrust populist Mississippi Attorney General and longtime Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood with a key role in pushing their rights as copyright owners against online services and search engines? Not I [Eli Lehrer, Weekly Standard] More from Mike Masnick at TechDirt: “it appears the MPAA and the major Hollywood studios directly funded various state Attorneys General in their efforts to attack and shame Google.” Related: The Verge.
Sequel: Google goes to court to block a sweeping subpoena from Hood [ArsTechnica, HuffPost (Hood: “salacious Hollywood tale”)] “One of Hood’s letters critical of Google, published earlier this week by The New York Times, was ‘largely written by lawyers for the movie industry,’ the company points out.” More: Hood vs. Google, from our archives.
- It’s against the law to run a puppet show in a window, and other NYC laws that may have outlived their purpose [Dean Balsamini, New York Post]
- L’Etat, c’est Maura Healey: Massachusetts Attorney General unilaterally rewrites state’s laws to ban more guns [Charles Cooke, National Review]
- Appeal to Sen. Grassley: please don’t give up on Flake-Gardner-Lee venue proposal to curtail patent forum shopping [Electronic Frontier Foundation, Elliot Harmon]
- Oil spill claims fraud trial: administrator Ken Feinberg raised eyebrows at news that Mikal Watts “was handling claims from 41,000 fishermen.” [Associated Press, earlier]
- By 70-30 margin, voters in Arizona override court ruling that state constitution forbids reduction in not-yet-earned public-employee pension benefits [Sasha Volokh]
- Google, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood appear to have settled their bitter conflict [ArsTechnica, earlier]
Overlooked tidbit from last month on the doings of former Mississippi attorney general Michael Moore, famed for his role in the great tobacco caper, who’s tight with longtime Mississippi AG and Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog]:
In February, Google released discovery documents that the company said showed that the DCA [the Hollywood-linked “Digital Citizens Alliance”] paid former Mississippi attorney general Mike Moore’s law firm $180,000 for consulting services “at the very same time [Mike Moore Law Firm] was officially deputized to lead the Attorney General’s so-called investigation of Google.”
We took note last month that a court was unsealing the allegations of a since-settled lawsuit alleging quid pro quo payments at a prominent class-action firm that has represented the state of Mississippi. Now Alan Lange at YallPolitics has more details. “I still maintain that if this case involved any other state officeholder other than Jim Hood that there would be above the fold headlines for days on end.”
Meanwhile, the Fifth Circuit has overturned a procedural win by Google that had halted an investigation by Mississippi AG Jim Hood into Google business practices in which Hood has more or less openly acted as the cat’s paw of Hollywood studios: “in some cases demand letters that came from Hood’s office were actually written by MPAA lawyers.” Google will still have the right to challenge the investigation at a later stage. [Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica, earlier]
- Mechanics of high-volume injury litigation: “A disgruntled former law firm employee spills secrets on a mass tort factory” [Paul Barrett, Business Week] More on chasing clients: new Chamber Institute for Legal Reform research finds 23 of top 25 Google key words linking ads to user searches are for personal injury law firms; TV advertising by lawyer is projected to reach $892 million in 2015, up 68% from 2008. Yet more: Daniel Fisher/Forbes (“San Antonio car wreck attorney” goes for $670 per click on Google), Tampa Bay Times (“Highly groomed attorney duo …shown moving in slow motion on courthouse steps to a hard rock beat”);
- Flurry of other new papers by U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, many connected with its annual Legal Reform Summit, include one on how the trial bar has been successful at lobbying the Obama administration. Plus a new edition of “101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems”;
- In speech, Rudolph Giuliani recalls tort-law challenges he faced as NYC mayor [Corpus Christi Caller-Times]
- A quarter century later, trial lawyers’ initiative to take revenge against insurer adversaries continues to harm California insurance customers [Ian Adams, “The troublesome legacy of Prop 103,” R Street Institute, paper in PDF, summary]
- A story we’ve covered before: Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood and the flow of funds from and to private lawyers he hires [Steve Wilson/Mississippi Watchdog, quotes me]
- Most New York counties have passed resolutions calling for reform of the state’s unique scaffold law [Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York]
- You’d think indictment of Mikal Watts, Texas law major-leaguer with friends in high D.C. places, would be playing bigger in the press [Tim Carney]
- Former NYT Peking correspondent Richard Bernstein, who now co-owns two nail salons, challenges Times blockbuster on prevalence of labor exploitation at NYC salons [New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Nolan Brown and followup, Times rebuttal. More: Bernstein rejoinder]
- More details on how studios used Mississippi attorney general’s office as cut-out against Google [Mike Masnick, TechDirt, earlier here and here, more on AG Jim Hood]
- Of course licensing laws “are only there to protect consumers and are enforced in a totally neutral way that has nothing to do with viewpoints or political pull (lol).” [Coyote on Boston mayor’s “not welcome in our town” message to Donald Trump]
- Speaking of Donald Trump, would his lawyer threaten litigation to intimidate reporter Tim Mak? Only in a totally classy way [Daily Beast, S.E. Cupp/New York Daily News (Cohen, 2011: “I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished”), earlier from the vaults on Trump’s use of litigation]
- Things class-action lawyers sue over: “Beggin’ Strips Don’t Have Enough Bacon” [Reuters, New York Post]
- As Lois Lerner targeting scandal drags on, time for Congress to impeach IRS officials? [Mike Rappaport, Liberty and Law]
- Welcome to AFFH-land: Bharara, on behalf of feds, says Westchester County should pay for not squeezing Chappaqua hard enough to approve housing project [Journal-News, earlier here and here]
The cozy dealings between the state of Mississippi and well-connected private lawyers — especially the way the state comes to hire those lawyers on contingency fee to pursue high-ticket suits against outside defendants — have long furnished grist for this site. Now, opening a new chapter, Mississippi AG Jim Hood has hired former AG Michael Moore, like Hood a longtime Overlawyered favorite, to sue BP over the effects of the Transocean oil spill on the state. [AP, YallPolitics] Per YallPolitics, “Interestingly, there is no specific financial arrangement. Moore and Hood contractually agree to work it out later and have fees paid directly by BP to the as yet to be named legal team led by Moore.” When Moore hired later-disgraced Dickie Scruggs to represent Mississippi what was to develop into the most profitable litigation in history — the multistate tobacco caper — the financial details were likewise shrouded in secrecy, and it was later claimed that there was no written agreement.
Plenty of news today, and some links to commentary:
As part of Timothy Balducci’s guilty plea, the feds confirm that Balducci has been “substantially” assisting them in their case against the other defendants. Per the sub-only WSJ: “People familiar with the case said the government has recordings of Mr. Scruggs that include evidence beyond that alluded to in the indictment.” Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker observes that the feds might have interviewed Balducci on any number of other matters, such as where “there are bodies buried,” in his own memorable phrase.
A Jan. 22 trial date has been set in the case.
Where’s John Keker? wonders Folo: “[Billy] Quin was sure doing all the talking for Team Scruggs yesterday”.
David Rossmiller employs the verb “to Scruggs”, and numerous commentators read the lawyer’s withdrawal from representation of Katrina cases as a step he would not have taken had the new criminal charges not loomed very seriously indeed.
Y’All Politics keeps wondering where AG Jim Hood is. It also notices that former Mississippi AG Mike Moore, a figure well known to longterm readers of this site, seems to be involved with the doings of the now Scruggs-less Scruggs Katrina Group. Martin Grace finds irony in that lawyer consortium’s approach to its own issues of “emergency management”, as well as in its solicitation of whistleblowers.
X Curmudgeon notes Scruggs’s long history of skating close to the edge on use of confidential informants: “some lawyers would argue [that] his success has depended heavily on his willingness to break the rules, or to play outside the rules.” Regarding John Grisham’s statement that his friend Scruggs would not have gotten involved in a “boneheaded bribery scam that is not in the least bit sophisticated”.
Isn’t it great having friends like John Grisham? In other words, if it had been a SOPHISTICATED bribery scheme, then, yeah, sure, he could see Dickie doing that. But not a boneheaded scam.
White Collar Crime Prof speculates about the shape of a Scruggs defense based on the twin themes of “it’s too boneheaded for smart guys like us”, and hanging Balducci out to dry.
Not to mention hoping that the tape recordings aren’t too damning.
Update: A new post from David Rossmiller ties together several loose threads mentioned above relating to Katrina litigation, confidential informants, the Renfroe documents and AG Hood. Our earlier coverage, by the way, can be reached by links from here.
Standard homeowners’ policies exclude coverage of flood damage unless it is purchased at a substantial additional premium, a fact well known to most property owners in high-risk areas. Mississippi lawyer Dickie Scruggs, a familiar figure to readers of this space, had the foresight to purchase flood insurance for his Pascagoula home, now partly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Now he wants the world’s insurers to pay billions for the properties they didn’t collect a premium for insuring, as well — perhaps scores of billions, if the principle is to extend to Louisiana. “Mr. Scruggs said he plans to urge Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to try to override flood-exclusion clauses in homeowners’ policies in that state in the interest of public policy, a move that could force insurers to pay many billions more toward rebuilding costs.” (Theo Francis, John D. McKinnon and Peter Sanders, “Paying for Flood Damage Looms as Big Challenge”, WSJ, Sept. 8)(sub). An operative with the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association says he hopes that “people on the Coast and their friends statewide ratchet up the political pressure” to make the insurers pay. (Anita Lee, “Claims Dispute”, Biloxi Sun-Herald, Sept. 9). Megan McArdle thinks it’s all a brilliant way to scare insurers away from offering even conventional coverage in the future (Sept. 8). See also Point of Law, Sept. 9. More: Martin Grace Sept. 8, Sept. 8 again, Sept. 13.