January 8, 2024

Attorney General, State Auditor trade statements on defamation suits

Therese Apel

AG Lynn Fitch and State Auditor Shad White

Attorney General Lynn Fitch has released a statement about two defamation lawsuits filed against State Auditor Shad White, to which White has issued a subsequent statement:


It is with deep regret that I must announce that my office will no longer be able to serve as counsel for Auditor Shad White in the two defamation suits that have been brought against him – one by University of Mississippi Professor James Thomas and one by Brett Favre – and will be filing the appropriate motions with the courts. I have learned of new information which has created a conflict pursuant to the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct that I cannot ignore.

Under the Mississippi Code, representation by the Attorney General’s Office in both of these cases is discretionary. As we often do, we took both cases to defend a principle that applies to all public officials who work on behalf of the people of Mississippi.

Both of these suits were brought against Auditor White for his statements in social media and through interactions with the press about investigations by his office. Our office determined and still believes that a public official should not face retribution in court for communicating with his constituents through these public methods. The Attorney General’s Office attorneys who have worked on these cases have done an admirable job and leave them in a strong posture. Absent this conflict, we would have seen them to their conclusion.

We did not take this step lightly or without serious consideration. 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.


This afternoon attorneys from the Attorney General’s office informed Auditor White that her lawyers would not be representing Auditor White in two defamation cases (the Favre litigation and the James Thomas litigation) because of Auditor White’s upcoming book Mississippi Swindle and the fact that “the book call[s] into question the integrity of the Attorney General and her office.” As the Attorney General noted, Auditor White’s statements in the defamation cases were made “about investigations by [the Auditor’s office],” so the Auditor’s office will simply use in-house counsel on these cases now that the Attorney General has withdrawn.

Disclosure of the language about the “integrity of the Attorney General” is a limited disclosure from a letter from the Attorney General’s Office to White and does not waive Auditor White’s privilege with attorneys in the Attorney General’s Office in any other instance.

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