Judge Yerger has ruled that documents showing contact between Ed Peters and Judge DeLaughter about the Eaton v. Frisby case can be disclosed, although the scope of the ruling is not clear in Jimmie Gates’s story in the Clarion Ledger this morning. He writes:
Documents showing contact between Ed Peters and then-Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter in a multimillion lawsuit can be given to any state or federal investigative agency, a Hinds County judge has ruled.
I can’t tell whether this means that documents under seal in the Eaton lawsuit are to be disclosed, or whether the documents that were recently sent to Judge Yerger by a ruling from Judge Davidson are to be disclosed. I’m guessing the former, because a federal investigative agency would have already had the ones Judge Davidson sent.
The ruling could bolster efforts by defendants’ attorneys in the theft-of-trade-secrets lawsuit to spur a criminal investigation about DeLaughter and Peters’ actions in the case.
However, federal prosecutors won’t discuss the possibility of a criminal investigation into the two men’s relationship in the Eaton vs. Frisby case.
It was a federal investigation in north Mississippi of judicial bribery in a separate case that led to charges against DeLaughter and his subsequent resignation. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice by lying to an FBI agent about communications with Peters in that case involving Dickie Scruggs. Peters was given immunity in the case.
The documents that Hinds County Circuit Judge Swan Yerger ruled can be given to authorities are part of an ongoing legal battle between Jackson-based Eaton Aerospace Corp. and some of its former employees. The documents are referred to as “Peters 1-3.”
Eaton alleges the former employees stole trade secrets and gave them to their new employer, North Carolina-based Frisby Aerospace, now known as Triumph Actuation Systems.
Eaton hired Peters as a consultant while the case was before Judge DeLaughter. Peters, a former Hinds County district attorney, was DeLaughter’s boss for a number of years.
“Peters 1-3 should have originally been disclosed to the defendants, because on its face, it is clear that the document was more than administrative in nature, as contended by plaintiffs,” Yerger wrote.
Yerger’s ruling said the documents show “direct contact” between the two men.
So, I gather that there are three documents showing contact, and that when asked about them originally in sealed discovery before the special master, Eaton did not disclose them. As I understand it, the special master in the case was originally charged with making recommendations about what to do about the contract made by Eaton’s lawyer to pay a fact witness, and about Eaton’s failure to disclose that in discovery. Once Judge Yerger took the case over from Judge DeLaughter, an additional issue came before the master– what to do about Judge DeLaughter’s ex parte contact with Peters. And I’m inferring from this that Eaton also failed to disclose documents relating to that in discovery.
That causes me to wonder how Frisby learned about them?
If Frisby attorneys can prove DeLaughter was improperly influenced by Peters and Eaton knew about it, Eaton’s lawsuit likely would be dismissed without ever making it to trial.
I’m not aware of a public ruling that says that Eaton’s case will likely be dismissed if Frisby proves the improper contact. I wonder why Gates says this.
The lawsuit has been put on hold as Yerger allows Frisby attorneys to try to determine if Peters improperly influenced DeLaughter and Eaton officials knew about it.
Alan Perry, an attorney for Frisby, said he couldn’t discuss Yerger’s ruling because much of the case is under seal.
Don McGrath, spokesman for Eaton Corp., said that if the Peters 1-3 documents are released they will demonstrate the communication was innocent.
“Eaton did not know Ed Peters was providing this correspondence with the court,” McGrath said. “We didn’t have him to do anything improper.”
I like the juxtaposition here– lawyers for Frisby refused to comment because much of the case (including the three documents in this order) is under seal, and a spokesman for Eaton talks anyway and tells us why he contends the documents under seal mean. And you know what? I’m not buying what he’s selling.
A document filed by U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee of Oxford before DeLaughter’s plea said Peters would have testified at trial that he was able to influence DeLaughter in the Eaton v. Frisby case.