Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Jim Hood on BP Payments

BP settlement news:
The administrator of BP Plc's (BP.L) $20-billion fund for victims of the worst U.S. offshore oil spill on Wednesday encouraged claimants to file early for final settlements to get the most generous terms.

"I am determined to be more generous than the courts would be..." said Kenneth Feinberg of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility on a conference call as the program stopped taking emergency claims and started work on final settlements.

He warned that Gulf Coast people and businesses who decline to settle and refuse to give BP and its contractors a release from future risk of lawsuits might end up getting less money.

"There is no guarantee that, in the future, a lump sum final payment will be as generous as it will be currently," Feinberg said.

"Until we finish our negotiations with Mr. Feinberg, I advise claimants against signing a release or accepting a final payment without first sharing those payments and paying fees to consulting an attorney," Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said in a statement.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jim Hood on BP Oil Payments

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, criticized Feinberg’s draft of protocols for final payments requiring lawyers to forego their legal fees victims to waive their legal rights to sue BP and other companies tied to the spill.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Butch Brown Agrees to Anger Management; Charges Dropped

That was easy.
The attorney for state transportation director Larry "Butch" Brown says his client will enter anger management classes and, in return, the city of Biloxi will drop a public intoxication charge.

Brown, 67, of Natchez, is executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. He was scheduled to stand trial in Biloxi on charges arising from an incident at Beau Rivage Casino in July.

Brown did not appear in court Thursday.

His attorney, Walter Brown of Natchez, no relation, said if the MDOT chief successfully completes the anger management course, the charges against him will be dropped and his record will be expunged.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Larry Buffington speaks on Judicial Performance and being called an SOB

Monday's debate between Judge Larry Buffington and challenger David Shoemake sponsored by is available online for viewing.

It lasts about an hour, but here are our favorite parts:

1) Buffington discusses the Judicial Performance charge against him.

2) Buffington and Shoemake discuss the third candidate's (Douglas Magee) endorsement of Shoemake.

3) Buffington says Shoemake called him an SOB and Shoemake explains if he did it was over the case of 15-year-old honor student named Tiffany who didn't want to visit her neglectful parent for which Buffington had a deputy arrest her and take her to jail.

Here are the transcripts.


Question: The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance found that you did not have the proper authority to issue subpoenas to two county supervisors to appear before you in a meeting on February 11, 2009. At the meeting you admitted you failed to comply with the law but said you didn't care. The Commission recommended to the Mississippi Supreme Court that you be reprimanded and fined. The Supreme Court has not yet issued its decision. Do you agree with the recommendation by the Commission on Judicial Performance?

Buffington: Absolutely. I messed up. Sixteen years you make some mistakes....I was frustrated; I'll be just as honest as I can be. I had asked the Simpson County Board of Supervisors to meet with me because there had been a controversy about an appointment that I made, a great appointment, a very qualified person, a needed appointment. Three of the supervisors agreed to meet with me. Unfortunately, one of the supervisors particularly said he wanted a subpoena or an order. The other supervisor I was told said the same thing. So out of frustration, because I have always met with the board. If they asked me to meet with them about any kind of situation and I've met with the board. And I thought that, not that they owed me anything, but they owed the office the respect, to meet with me. So I did. Before I thought, I issued the subpoena. The thing about the subpoena was I could have issued the subpoena if I had just set forth what it was. I did not set forth in the subpoena the reason. I made a mistake. I accepted that responsibility. The judicial performance committee has made a recommendation on it and I am in full agreement with it.


Question: Judge Buffington, Simpson County is the largest county in this district and Simpson County native Douglas Magee won a large share of our votes. What would you say to those who supported Mr. Magee to convince them to vote for you in the run-off election?

Buffington: Look at my last 16 years. Doug and I have never had any disagreements. He might have had a disagreement on certain things he wanted to achieve but we've never had any disagreements as far as in court and I would think if they look at me and what I've done they'd want to support me.

Shoemake: Well, Mr. Magee and his supporters are going to support me - [cheers and applause] - and there will be an ad coming out in the paper this week to that effect. But I would say to them, if you want to compare who to vote for, do just that. Go ask other lawyers who have had other lawyers with me, who have had other lawyers with him, ask the people who have had cases with me, ask the people who have had cases with him and inquire if they think justice has been done. When they got a ruling out of the court do they feel they've been treated fairly and has justice been done. When I do my job as a lawyer did I treat them with respect? Did I do what I pledged to do as a lawyer and represent them to the best of my ability? And did I do it and treat them fairly and honestly? People need to go and investigate the people they are voting for for judge.


Buffington: The fact that maybe I've run for other offices, trying to improve what I think is our court system. I'm not ashamed of that. I would do it again. The only lawyer who has ever called me an S.O.B. is standing right beside me right here. So I would ask you to ask the other lawyers in the district as far as how I treat people and how he has treated me at times. And he was a good friend. He is godparent of my youngest child. I have appointed him on cases to represent children where he has made close to a million dollars.

Shoemake: That is absolutely not true and I do want a chance to respond to all of this.

Buffington: And he has and those type things. And I have ruled against him. And he has told everybody I have ruled against him every time he comes in there and I don't. I rule based on the facts and based on what's before me. And I'm going to continue to do that in the future and I hate that it’s gotten down to this. I'm real disappointed it’s gotten down to this. But I'm not going to sit here and be slammed. And I do ask you to check. Check with your court personnel. Check with your local lawyers. Are there two or three that are mad at me? Absolutely. But check with them and see.

Moderator: OK. I'll give you one minute to respond.

Shoemake: Judge Buffington says I called him an S.O.B.

Buffington: Terrell Stubbs was present!

[Terrell Stubbs was standing at the back of the room, at this point he exited the debate hall.]

Shoemake: I don't know whether I did or not, but I know what happened immediately before that in Court. He put that young lady right there on the second row in jail. She was fifteen, a straight-A honor student at Seminary High School. She had not ever caused anybody a problem. She had three part time jobs. She did not want to go with her parent on a weekend visitation when that parent had basically neglected her for the first fourteen years of her life. After all of that. Judge Buffington ordered a deputy to come to the courthouse and take her to jail. Now, in the courtroom, my face never changed. I don't have a lot of personality and I take being a lawyer seriously. I carry a poker face in the courtroom. You never know my emotions in the courtroom. When I got back to his office, in his office with the door closed and with two or three other lawyers there I expressed my opinions on the way he ran his court. And I still have those opinions. And that's one of the things that has pushed me to run for the job I'm running for now. You can talk all you want to, it’s all about kids. But when you put a fifteen year old honor student like Tiffany in jail or threaten her with jail, something is bad wrong.


Debate between Judge Larry Buffington and David Shoemake for Chancery Judge seat, 13th District, MS from Deia Sanders on Vimeo.

Larry Buffington and using the law to silence the media

You remember Larry Buffington. He went nuts when someone "leaked" public information to the press. In his attempt to uncover the hideous crime of giving public information to the press, he issued subpoenas that he later acknowledged broke the law, but he didn't care. For that the Judicial Performance Commission recommended a public rebuke, a case still pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Now, Larry Buffington, the law, and the media collide once again. As we have noted, it appears Larry Buffington may have violated state ethics rules regarding nepotism by ordering supervisors to hire his brother and ordering his brother's level of pay. Additionally, this would seem to violate the Code of Judicial Conduct that says clearly, "A judge shall avoid nepotism and favoritism."

So a citizen files a complaint. Then comes the story in the Clarion Ledger quoting the citizen and the head of the Judicial Performance Commission.
Charlene May of Silver City acknowledged to The Clarion-Ledger that she filed the complaint "because I think the public needs to know he is robbing taxpayers." But the head of the judicial watchdog group charged with investigating complaints and making punishment recommendations said state law dealing with nepotism is fuzzy. "It speaks to specific officers and clerks," said John Toney, executive director of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.
Now comes the next story. Apparently Larry Buffington and his attorney are attempting once again to use the law to silence the media.
A Silver Creek woman says her judicial complaint against longtime Chancery Judge Larry Buffington has been dismissed because she talked to the media.
This is a woman who saw something wrong. She did the responsible thing and reported it to the authorities. When contacted by the press she didn't run and hide, she said what she did. At what point does any of this clear Larry Buffington of nepotism?
She filed her complaint late last month with the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.

Buffington said Monday he hired his brother four years ago in Lawrence County only because the county prosecuting attorney had a scheduling conflict. He said county supervisors hired his brother in the other counties.
So Buffington can comment on this, but the person who made the allegation can not?
May said she received a call on her cell phone from the commission's Executive Director John Toney telling her that her complaint was voided because she breached the confidentiality clause after her story appeared in The Clarion-Ledger.
That was the same story in which John Toney appeared.
May said she disagrees with her complaint beingdismissed.

"That does not negate what he has done," May said of Buffington. "He committed nepotism."

Toney said he couldn't confirm or deny anything about the case because the commission's work is confidential until the recommendation.

Butch Brown Trial Thursday

Unless something has changed, Butch Brown faces trial tomorrow on a charge of public intoxication.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

School Attorney says pink cleats kid "quit"

There is always two sides to every story but so far we've only heard one side. Here are the first comments by the attorney for the school in the silly pink cleats lawsuit.
The attorney for Mendenhall High School football player Coy Sheppard claims the school did not honor its agreement to let him back on the football team last Friday. But, the attorney for the Simpson County School Board says the coach told the high school senior he was back on the team, but he would not be playing in the playoff game. We’re told the coach allowed Sheppard to stand on the sidelines, but he was not in full uniform. "My understanding is that he quit he walked away. He said well I’m done with you and everything and he walks away and that’s it. At no time was he ever forced off the team,” recalls Daniel Jones, Simpson County’s attorney.

The Silliness Continues

The implied threat to the Coach is you better play this guy at Friday's game or else the lawsuit will happen. As we have warned, we are now litigating the decisions coaches make in football. Parents, forget screaming at the coach, just hire a lawyer instead.
Coy Sheppard says he just wants to kick the ball Friday and help his Mendenhall High School football team win.

And he's hoping his coach doesn't reverse field and keep him from dressing out.

Sheppard is practicing with the team this week in preparation for Friday's game against the St. Stanislaus Rockachaws in the third round of the state playoffs. The winner advances to the state semifinals.

The Sheppards sued the school district earlier this month to protest his dismissal from the team. According to the lawsuit, Mendenhall coach Chris Peterson dismissed Sheppard after he wore pink cleats to the Oct. 8 football game and Oct. 11 practice.

Peterson told Sheppard he could not dress out for Friday's game because he had missed too many practices, Diaz said.

Quarterback Arlandas Johnson, who has also been kicking in Sheppard's absence, was injured last week, and it's unclear whether he will be able to play Friday.

Joanne Sheppard said her son just wants to be able to play before his senior year season ends.

Diaz said the original lawsuit had not been dismissed because they were waiting to see whether Coy Sheppard would be "fully reinstated" as the agreement said.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coaching Through Litigation - or - the other shoe drops

It appears the Mendenhall football coach did not play the kid with the pink cleats after he was reinstated to the football team and dropped his lawsuit. Some people yell at a coach from the bleachers when they don't like what he does. Not anymore. Now its time to sue.

The kid's attorney, Oliver Diaz, said
"So not only is this coach making bad decisions, he is also costing the taxpayers of Simpson County a good amount in legal damages."
Two items to note. First, what is costing the taxpayers of Simpson County is the lawsuit will now include money for the kid and money for his attorney. Second, the team won suggesting the Coach may just not have needed the kid.
In addition to the initial request for punitive damages paid to the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Diaz said, he will be requesting punitive damages for Sheppard, plus attorney’s fees.

Mendenhall defeated Purvis 27-21 in the Class 4A playoffs.
If anyone is costing the taxpayers money, it is the lawyer. If you measure coaching decisions by a win or loss, then the coach did not make a bad decision.

Let's hope for the sake of football that we don't soon add on-field lawyers for players to consult when they disagree with their coaches.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A "silly" lawsuit dropped

It seems the silly lawsuit over a football player's pink shoes has come to an end.
Sheppard, who was kicked off the Mendenhall High School football team last month after wearing the brightly colored shoes for a game and practice, was reinstated Thursday during a meeting with school officials.

The 17-year-old kicker filed a lawsuit against the school district last week to protest his Oct. 11 dismissal from the team. The suit has been dropped as part of Thursday's agreement, his attorney, Oliver Diaz, said.

Sheppard said his goal was to raise awareness about breast cancer.

"As long as this raised awareness, then it's done some good," he said. "I'm just glad to be back on the team."

Attorneys for Sheppard and the district said coach Chris Peterson hugged Sheppard and welcomed him back to the team after the agreement was reached.

"He coaches the team real good," Sheppard said. "I'm glad to be back with him, playing for him."
At last, the Republic is safe once again.

A "silly" lawsuit

A kid wears pink cleats to football practice. His coach tells him not to wear them. The kid ignores the coach and wears them again. The coach says if you won't follow instructions, you're off the team. The kid sues. Former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz is his attorney.
Because students in the Simpson County School District earn academic credit for participating in sports, Diaz said the dismissal has put Sheppard's future at the school in question. "His graduation may be in jeopardy for something as silly as not being allowed to wear pink cleats," he said.
How silly for the kid to put his own graduation in jeopardy by not listening to his coach at practice. He must value his pink cleats more than football, even more than his education. Good for him. One day he can point to those pink cleats on the wall and tell his grandchildren that pink cleats are worth fighting for, even sacrificing your education for.

Another word for "silly" is of course "frivolous."

But wait. It appears pink cleats are not worth fighting for.
Diaz said Coy Sheppard has apologized and promised to leave the pink shoes at home, but so far school officials have not budged.

"All Coy wants to do is play football," JoAnne Sheppard said "If they told him he could play football this weekend, he would go play."
Kid doesn't listen to his coach. Kid gets kicked off the team. Kid still wants to play. Kid now says he will listen to his coach. I bet he will listen to his coach now and more than that the other team members will listen to their coach. That is important to a team.

Should the coach let the kid who learned his lesson to get back on the team? That's up to the coach, but while the kid still wants to play football, it isn't clear he learned his lesson.
Sheppard's suit, filed last week in Simpson County Chancery Court, asks the court to reinstate Sheppard to the football team and clear his disciplinary record. The suit also asks for any monetary damages to be awarded to the American Cancer Society.
So, the kid wants the judge to run football, not his coach. The kid wants a judge to erase the fact that he ignored his coach's instructions. And the kid wants to take money from his school and give it to a charity he supports. It appears the kid doesn't just want to play football, he wants to play football on his own terms, which is what started this whole mess to begin with.

We agree with his attorney. This is silly.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Salter: Butch should go - Ledger: MDOT needs change

Sid Salter writes today that Butch Brown should retire from MDOT to focus on his own concerns.
Brown needs to step down from the leadership of MDOT and attend to his personal issues. Brown needs to be able to focus on his battle against cancer without the political turmoil that is certain to develop over his leadership of MDOT during the process of choosing a successor to the late Minor.

In all likelihood, the election to choose Minor's successor doesn't bode well for Brown continuing in that role regardless of his health.
The Clarion Ledger editorialized the "the activities, comments and actions of Executive Director Butch Brown continue to keep the Department of Transportation in an upheaval of political intrigue and controversy."
Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall has sought Brown's removal for some time and, again, has called on him to step down. Hall has been overruled by the other two commissioners, Wayne Brown (no relation to Butch Brown) in the Southern District and Minor, who died of a heart attack the morning of Brown's remarks about LaHood.

A new commission will change the political makeup, which could affect whether Brown remains executive director of MDOT.

Calling federal highway officials names won't help Mississippi build needed highways. Some new state leadership might.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Warner McBride Dodges on Butch Brown

There are many issues voters should consider in the upcoming special election for transportation commissioner in the Northern District. Just as the first important vote in Congress is for Speaker of the House and control of the whole Congress, so the first important vote at MDOT is for the executive director who with the support of two commissioners rules the entire agency and is more powerful than the third elected commissioner.

If a candidate denies Butch Brown is an issue then that is code that they will support Butch Brown.
McBride, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said he plans on making a public announcement to run after the governor sets the election date.

He said his "thoughts and prayers go out to Butch and his family" as he deals with cancer.

"I think until he's back home and recovering and better it's inappropriate to discuss his leadership," McBride said. "The question is not about Butch Brown or other personnel, but it's how MDOT can best be run for the people of Mississippi, and that's going to be my focus."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Larry Buffington Does it Again

How can one rural judge provide so much entertainment? Here is the latest from Judge Larry Buffington.
Longtime Chancery Judge Larry Buffington, who is in a runoff in less than three weeks, is facing a new judicial complaint.

Buffington allegedly has filed orders in four counties dating to 2000 hiring his brother, Scott Buffington, as a Youth Court prosecutor, according to the complaint.

Charlene May of Silver City acknowledged to The Clarion-Ledger that she filed the complaint "because I think the public needs to know he is robbing taxpayers."

But the head of the judicial watchdog group charged with investigating complaints and making punishment recommendations said state law dealing with nepotism is fuzzy.

"It speaks to specific officers and clerks," said John Toney, executive director of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.
This is the "fuzzy" law.
It shall be unlawful for any person elected, appointed or selected in any manner whatsoever to any state, county, district or municipal office, or for any board of trustees of any state institution, to appoint or employ, as an officer, clerk, stenographer, deputy or assistant who is to be paid out of the public funds, any person related by blood or marriage within the third degree, computed by the rule of the civil law, to the person or any member of the board of trustees having the authority to make such appointment or contract such employment as employer. § 25-1-53
And the law states (§ 25-4-103) a brother is a relative.
Toney would not discuss a specific case but said generally it's not a "slam dunk" that any rule or law has been broken.

"The only thing we would be looking at is whether he appointed someone who wasn't needed," Toney said.
There might be a few other things to consider as well also from the Code of Judicial Conduct
• A judge shall avoid nepotism and favoritism. (Canon 3-C-4)

• Judges shall not allow their family, social, or other relationships to influence the judges' judicial conduct or judgment. (Canon 2-B)
Back to the story.
May filed records with her complaint showing orders signed by Buffington appointing Scott Buffington as a Youth Court prosecutor in Jefferson Davis, Lawrence and Simpson counties. Scott Buffington also was appointed for Smith County, too, but not Covington, she said.
Besides nepotism, Buffington also may have violated §25-4-105 that prohibits a relative setting "the amount of pecuniary benefit" of a relative which the Mississippi Ethics Commission has looked down on numerous times (for example Opinion ID: 99-043-E and Opinion ID: 05-069-E).

We hope to hear more from Judge Larry Buffington on this one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wayne Brown: Butch's remarks rhymed with "AASHTO"

An update on this morning's post also coming from the Mississippi Business Journal (and Y'all Politics is posting, too.)
We did manage to reach Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown (no relation to Butch) on his cell phone a few minutes ago.

Wayne Brown could not remember exactly what Butch Brown said that drew Mendez’ ire, but did say there was a profanity involved that “rhymes with AASHTO.”

“I think Victor was a little too sensitive. We have a right to express our opinion in these rural states about the direction transportation’s going in. Did Butch do it with the best taste in the world? No, he did not.”

Wayne Brown has been an ally of Butch Brown for many years, and he said this latest incident does nothing to change that. Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall has often clashed with both Browns. A spokesman for Hall said Friday morning that Hall did not attend the AASHTO Board of Directors dinner.

“Mendez had a right to say what he said in his letter; Butch had a right to say what he said,” said Wayne Brown. “Both of them could have done it with a little more sensitivity.”

Federal Highway Chief: Butch Brown's behavior "offensive" and "shameful"

Clay Chandler at the Mississippi Business Journal breaks this story:
Early this afternoon, Magnolia Marketplace obtained a letter Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez wrote to Brown and copied several others on. It’s only two sentences long, but it packs quite a punch.

The full text of the letter, which was dated Nov. 3 and addressed to Brown: “Your remarks as a public official were highly offensive, inappropriate and unprofessional. Your behavior was shameful and brings discredit to your department (the Mississippi Department of Transportation), the citizens of the great State of Mississippi and your peers at AASHTO.”


Mendez was referring to Brown’s behavior during AASHTO’s Board of Directors dinner, which was listed on the letter’s subject line, on Nov. 1. According to the AASHTO meeting agenda, the dinner took place at the Imperial Palace, was invitation only and started at 6 p.m. Here’s the interesting thing about that: Northern District Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor died the morning of Nov. 1. He was attending the AASHTO meeting.

So whatever Brown did that night, hours after his friend and colleague’s sudden death, was deemed so “offensive, inappropriate and unprofessional” by Mendez, he fired off a letter and copied the other two members of the Transportation Commission (Dick Hall and Wayne Brown), AASHTO’s executive director, AASHTO’s incoming president, and the deputy director of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If Taylor wins, he still loses subcommittee leadership

MS-4 - Mississippi's Gene Taylor is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, but this year's reelection bid has pulled him even further to the right, and despite the work he's brought home to Northrop Grumman's naval shipyard in Pascagoula, he's very vulnerable to Republican Steven Palazzo. Even if Taylor survives today, he'll likely lose his chairmanship of the HASC's sea power subcommittee to Missouri's Todd Akin.