In 2007 State Farm sued Attorney General Jim Hood. Here is the Complaint. State Farm does not like Jim Hood. No one likes State Farm. When State Farm filed the lawsuit, it filed this motion to seal the case. The Court later unsealed the case.

In 2008 Sate Farm and Hood settled and the Court dismissed the case. Here is the order. The terms of the settlement agreement were confidential and the court ordered that they remain under seal.

In 2009 Ya’ll Politics, joined by three television stations, moved to intervene in the case in order to obtain the terms of the settlement agreement. State Farm did not object. General Hood did. Here is Hood’s Response to the Motion to Unseal the agreement.

Hood’s response states several times that the Court ordered that the settlement agreement be sealed upon a showing of good cause. I have looked for something in the record confirming that statement, but have not found it. Maybe I just missed it.

It seems that Hood views the terms of the settlement agreement as politically embarrassing. But open access to court proceedings should take precedent over politics.  

It is bad form and bad law for court files to be sealed without an evidentiary basis for a finding of good cause in the record. An example is Judge Yerger’s unexplained sealing of all relevant pleadings in the Eaton v. Frisby case pending in Hinds County.  In the good old days newspapers viewed themselves as the guardians of public access to the courts and challenged improper sealing of court files and court proceedings. Now, newspapers can’t afford to pay the lawyers to make the challenges.

I would like to see Judge Bramlette grant the motion for two reasons. First, it would reverse the trend of unexplained sealing of court files and confidentiality orders not supported with evidence. Second, it would start a trend of new media (a blog) successfully challenging secrecy in the courts. 

  • Third South

    Judge Biggers changed the way secret letters from influential citizens have influenced, or tried to influence (with the complicity of federal judges as to the secrecy), sentencings of prominent Mississippians when he made them available to the press in the Dickie Scruggs case. Judge Bramlette should have the ethical sense of judicial integrity, and end this “seal if you wish” practice that has been prevalent in Mississippi for years.

  • rober hutchins

    jackson mayor kane ditto held a press conferece
    in 1995 when he trackhoed the dilapidated house
    at 413 hand ave.
    the secrete tax liens give mortgage underwriters
    panic attacks.
    all of the reporters who were present to photgraph kane ditto destroying the house on a trackhoe are scared to even admit that the press conference took place.
    red china does not do any better job of scareing
    reporters with the threat of imprisonment