News » The Week That Was

Nutt chills Freeze

Also, Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes the podium and Trump getting less popular in Arkansas.

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Quote of the week

"This is a tough, tough day for me. For my family, for my friends, my supporters. I would like to think I am much, much more than this. The portrayal of me has not been kind this last almost four years. But anybody that knows me — anybody that knows me — knows that I'm not what's been reported."

— Mike Maggio, the former circuit judge from Conway, to a KARK-TV, Channel 4, reporter just before he reported to U.S. marshals to begin serving a 10-year sentence. Maggio pled guilty to bribery for reducing a $5.2 million jury award in a nursing home negligence case to $1 million, to the benefit of Greenbrier nursing home owner Michael Morton. Maggio later tried, unsuccessfully, to rescind his guilty plea.

Nutt chills Freeze's career

Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigned under duress last week. By most accounts, Little Rock native and former University of Arkansas and Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt's unhappiness about being blamed for an Ole Miss recruiting scandal led to the unearthing of phone records that did in Freeze. Nutt sued Ole Miss earlier this month, alleging defamation of character related to an NCAA investigation into the university. Nutt's Little Rock attorney, Tom Mars, later pointed Ole Miss to phone records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, that suggested that Freeze had called an escort service. Freeze initially said it was a misdial, but Ole Miss officials said they found a pattern. The episode brings to mind Nutt's own problems at the University of Arkansas — derived from his itchy cell-phone finger and the state public records law.

Reversal

Huge legal news from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a highly publicized case in which federal Judge P.K. Holmes disciplined lawyers for working out a class-action settlement in a lawsuit against an insurance company that involved dropping long-running litigation in his court for a settlement in state court.

The 8th Circuit said the lawyers had not abused the judicial process or broken a rule when they dismissed the federal action. As a result, the appeals court reversed the disciplinary action against the lawyers.

Some have argued the settlement was more favorable to class-action lawyers and the insurance company than to members of the class that sued over payments on auto claims.

The case drew huge attention in part because of the high-powered class-action lawyers involved in the settlement. They included John Goodson of Texarkana, a political player, University of Arkansas trustee and husband of state Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

Holmes' discipline of offending lawyers was a reprimand, but it was a negative brand that affected their ability to handle similar cases in the future.

The 8th Circuit said it understood Holmes "frustration," but said the lawyers had a "colorable" argument that a voluntary dismissal of the case was outside rules he could enforce and that he'd abused discretion in punishing the lawyers.

Holmes has broad authority to discipline lawyers on his own volition, but this case didn't meet the standard, the 8th Circuit held. Holmes found that the attorneys were looking for a more favorable forum. But the 8th Circuit said rules allow parties to ask for dismissal for "any reason," and other cases had overturned sanctions in similar cases where a different forum was being sought.

Sanders in the spotlight

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is the new White House press secretary.

Her promotion was announced last week after news of former press secretary Sean Spicer's resignation. Spicer resigned, it was reported, over his unhappiness over President Trump's choice of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.

It's a hot seat. Sanders seems to have been better liked by the press corps than Spicer, though she's had plenty of sharp interchanges as deputy, recently in briefings in which recordings haven't been allowed.

Sanders had some supporting roles as a character in the "Saturday Night Live" depiction of the Trump White House. It remains to be seen if there's a player ready to do for her what Melissa McCarthy did for Spicer in her portrayal of him.

Poll of the week

In response to a Talk Business/Hendrix College poll of Arkansas residents on the way President Trump is doing his job:

50 percent approve

47 percent disapprove

Trump won more than 60 percent of the vote in Arkansas in November. In February, 60 percent of respondents to the same poll approved of Trump, while 35 percent disapproved of him.

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