Judge’s Request to Prosecute Mississippi Attorney Declined

A U.S. attorney on Wednesday declined a federal judge’s request to prosecute a prominent Mississippi attorney on allegations of criminal contempt in a Hurricane Katrina insurance dispute.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said in the letter to U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. that he chose not to prosecute Richard F. Scruggs and his firm “following a serious and thorough review of the facts.”

In his June 15 request, Acker said he would appoint another attorney to handle the prosecution if Martin declined the court’s request. His office did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Acker ruled in June that Scruggs willfully violated a Dec. 8 preliminary injunction that required him to deliver all documents about State Farm Insurance Co. that two whistleblowers secretly copied. Sisters Cori and Kerri Rigsby were heavily involved in processing claims for State Farm, and said they duplicated the documents to back up their allegations the company wrongly denied claims after Katrina.

Acker said that instead of complying, Scruggs sent the documents to the Mississippi attorney general’s office “for the calculated purpose of ensuring noncompliance with or avoidance” of the injunction.

A spokeswoman for Martin’s office, Jill Ellis, said the U.S. attorney had no further comment beyond the letter.

Scruggs, a highly successful plaintiffs’ lawyer who is the brother-in-law of U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., is suing State Farm on behalf of hundreds of Mississippi residents.

His son and law partner in Oxford, Miss., Zach Scruggs, said that Martin’s letter “says all that needs to be said about this matter, and it would be inappropriate for us to say anything else at this time.”