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Law

Mississippi Attorney General Yanks Lawyers in Brett Favre Defamation Case

  • Shad White's defamation battle against Favre fuels conflict.
  • An upcoming book written by the state auditor questions the integrity of AG.
Lynn Fitch
Credit: Attorney General of the State of Mississippi

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, whose investigation uncovered what has become known as the Mississippi welfare scandal, won’t be represented by Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office as White continues to fight off a defamation lawsuit filed by Brett Favre. 

Fitch’s office stated such in a Hinds County Court filing on Friday, and an attorney in Fitch’s office didn’t hold back on what led to that decision in a letter to White, which Front Office Sports obtained. White agreed to waive attorney-client privilege for only this letter. 

“Having obtained an advance copy of your forthcoming book from you for purposes of assessing its impact on your previously-asserted defenses in the Favre case, we became aware that you make multiple statements in the book calling into question the integrity of the Attorney General and her office,” Mississippi Special Assistant Attorney General Rex M. Shannon III wrote. “These statements will undoubtedly be the subject of public discourse.

”As a fellow statewide elected official, the Attorney General must reserve the right to refute these statements publicly in due course. This dynamic obviously creates a divergence of interests between you and the Attorney General that impedes her ability to further discharge her duties as your counsel in the pending personal defamation actions.”

Favre sued White, Pat McAfee and Shannon Sharpe last February over statements each made about Favre’s alleged ties to the welfare scandal. McAfee and Sharpe had their cases compelled from Mississippi county courts to federal court. McAfee and Favre settled in May with no money changing hands. Sharpe’s case was dismissed with prejudice in November, although Favre is appealing that decision. 

White’s book, Mississippi Swindle, became part of an amended complaint by Favre in the defamation case against White. The book is scheduled to be published by Penguin Random House in August. 

“White’s publication of this book—in which it is apparent he will continue his outrageous defamation campaign against Favre—provides even further confirmation that, when, as alleged in the complaint, White appeared on national and international media outlets to defame Favre, he was in no way acting within the scope of his official duties but instead to advance his personal political ambitions and, in the case of the book, make money,” a Favre attorney wrote in a Dec. 29 letter to the judge presiding over the defamation case. “Far from acting within the scope of his duties, White shamefully seeks to personally profit from his official position by continuing to defame a private citizen.”

A statement from Mississippi State Auditor spokesperson Fletcher Freeman on Friday noted that the office will take over as counsel for Favre’s lawsuit and another defamation case filed by University of Mississippi Professor James Thomas over statements White made about a September 2022 “Scholar Strike.”

This isn’t the first time White and Fitch have come into conflict. In a statement to FOS in November, White questioned Fitch’s appetite to pursue criminal charges for those alleged to have been part of the scheme that saw more than $77 million of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds misappropriated. 

While county and federal prosecutors have charged several people, Fitch’s office has not filed a single indictment. The state’s lawsuit seeking to recoup that money from Favre and more than 40 others is being led by an outside law firm. 

“We turned over our entire evidence file to the Attorney General long ago because their prosecutors have jurisdiction,” White said. “We did the same for the federal prosecutors. The AG’s office has not expressed interest to me in pursuing the case so far.”

In a statement Friday night, Fitch said the attorneys in her office “have done an admirable job [in the defamation cases] and leave them in a strong posture.”

“We did not take this step lightly or without serious consideration,” Fitch said. “My office will continue to work with the Auditor’s Office on the various tasks where our duties intersect. We will continue to pursue our TANF civil suit with our partners at the Department of Human Services as well as any criminal wrongdoing that may come from our investigation to the extent we can do so without stepping on the criminal case the Auditor chose to take to the District Attorney and U.S. Attorney for prosecution.”

Favre, who remains a defendant in the lawsuit, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged criminally. Favre was sued along with more than 40 others in May 2022, his defense team has attempted to highlight former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s alleged culpability in the scheme that led to about $7 million in federal TANF funds illegally funneled to two Favre-related projects.

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