Former AG Jim Hood joins national law firm, will work from Houston

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Attorney General Jim Hood performed at about the same levels among African American voters who went to the polls as did Mike Espy in the 2018 U.S. Senate special election runoff.

The law firm of Weisbrod Matteis & Copley touts on its web page offices in such diverse locations as Washington, D.C.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fort Lauderdale and Ridgeland.

Now it can be updated to include Houston, Mississippi.

The D.C.-based Weisbrod Matteis & Copley, which consists of about 50 attorneys, announced recently that former Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is joining the firm. And just as he did during much of his four terms as Mississippi attorney general, Hood will be working out of an office in his hometown of Houston in northeast Mississippi.

Hood, who was Mississippi’s only statewide elected Democrat from 2008 until January, acknowledged recently how his life would have been different had he prevailed against then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in the 2019 governor’s election.

He would have been dealing with the various crises that engulfed Reeves early in his term, such as widespread violence that erupted in the state’s prison system, major indictments for public corruption at the Department of Human Services and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sometimes I read the headlines, but I don’t read the stories,” Hood joked, saying he has no regrets and does not dwell on the past. He added he believes he will be able to help victims in his new position just as he did as AG.

Hood said he anticipates that the pandemic and aftermath will lead to lawsuits involving investment fraud and other malpractice. Hood said he and his new firm could be involved in those issues to represent people who might have been cheated.

Hood’s critics would argue that he is going to work for one of the multiple firms he hired as outside counsel during his stint as attorney general.

Hood would argue he is joining a firm where he can pursue his interests and make a difference.

“It is a good fit for me,” said Hood recently.

A big part of what the law firm does is pursue claims against insurance companies, including business claims following natural disasters. Hood met August Matteis, the chair of the law firm, during the litigation against insurance companies after Hurricane Katrina.

Hood said litigation surrounding natural disasters is growing and will be a major part of what he does.

“Global warming — you can debate the cause, but it is happening,” Hood said. “You are having a lot more fires, floods and other disasters… You are seeing more intense storms.”

He said, “Sometimes these insurance companies are not willing to pay claims unless they are pushed.”

In addition, Hood will continue to work with state attorneys general on various issues, such a lawsuit against Google alleging antitrust and student-privacy violations.

“Over his exemplary career as a public servant, Jim demonstrated a genuine concern for victims of injustice that aligns with the values of Weisbrod Matteis & Copley and makes him an ideal addition,” Matteis said. “Jim is a gifted legal strategist and trial lawyer, but the heart that he brings to his matters is what sets him apart.”

Hood said he met Matteis when he and his firm represented the Rigsby sisters, who were working as State Farm Insurance adjusters and later became whistleblowers. They provided evidence against State Farm in the litigation over what State Farm was responsible for paying after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005. The sisters prevailed against State Farm in a lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“During my time as attorney general, I hired a lot of excellent law firms, and Weisbrod Matteis & Copley is the equal of any of them,” Hood said. “I have the greatest respect for the work they have done across the country, and particularly in my state following Hurricane Katrina. This move only underlines WMC’s commitment to the Gulf South region.”

During his tenure as attorney general, Hood’s political opponents accused him of operating a pay to play scheme by employing outside counsel on major cases. Those law firms often made millions on the cases, and subsequently became big contributors to Hood’s political campaigns.

Hood said he hired the attorneys on a contingency basis and they were paid only if they prevailed. And they were hired for complex cases that his small staff of attorneys did not have the time or expertise to pursue without outside help, he added.

Since losing the election for governor, Hood said he has been busy cleaning out his late father’s law office on the square in Houston. He said he is now operating out of the office and plans to do some local work in addition to his work with the national law firm.