State Auditor exonerated of judge's contempt charge

State Auditor exonerated of judge's contempt charge

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a Harrison County Chancery Court's contempt ruling against the State Auditor and the Office of State Auditor. The contempt charge was related to the subpoenaed records in the Department of Marine Resources investigation.

The Sun Herald newspaper's parent company, Gulf Publishing, initially filed an open records request, but was denied because the requested files were part of an ongoing investigation and subject to a Circuit Court subpoena.

Harrison County Chancery Judge Jennifer Schloegel issued a bench order and protective order to seize the disputed documents at the same time a federal grand jury subpoenaed the documents.

The Office of State Auditor complied with the federal subpoena at the direction of the Attorney General.  It was then the Chancery Judge issued her contempt charge and ordered a contempt hearing refusing to recuse herself.

Also overturned in the Appellant Courts' ruling were fines and court cost ordered by the lower court to be paid by various individuals including the State Auditor and the Attorney General as well as members of their staffs.

"I am extremely glad the Mississippi Court of Appeals has ruled and vindicated the actions of this office and the conduct of our professional staff," said State Auditor Pickering.  "I appreciate the press's efforts to maintain open and transparent records on behalf of the citizens of Mississippi, but today's ruling demonstrates that my office took great measures to protect the integrity of the investigative process of our State and Federal Court system."

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