JACKSON, Miss. -- The Mississippi Supreme Court says it will not remove former NFL quarterback Brett Favre as a defendant in a civil lawsuit that seeks to recover millions of dollars of misspent welfare money meant to help some of the poorest people in the United States.
A panel of three justices issued a brief ruling Wednesday, denying an appeal from Favre.
His attorneys said in written arguments in May that the Mississippi Department of Human Services is making "utterly meritless" legal arguments in suing the Pro Football Hall of Famer.
On April 24, Hinds County Circuit Judge Faye Peterson denied Favre's request to be removed from the lawsuit, which has more than three dozen people or businesses as defendants. Favre asked the Supreme Court to overturn Peterson's decision.
Millions of federal welfare dollars for low-income Mississippi residents were squandered on projects supported by wealthy or well-connected people from 2016 to 2019, prosecutors say.
The Department of Human Services' lawsuit, filed in 2022, says money from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program was improperly spent, including on projects Favre supported: $5 million for a volleyball arena at the university he attended and where Favre's daughter played the sport, and $1.7 million toward development of a concussion treatment drug.
No criminal charges have been brought against Favre, although a former department director and other people have pleaded guilty to their part in the misspending.
In their filing to the state Supreme Court, Favre's attorneys argued that Department of Human Services officials and Nancy New, who directed a nonprofit organization with Human Services contracts, "concocted and carried out the scheme" to direct welfare money toward a volleyball center, and that Favre was not part of the effort.
Attorneys for the state responded that Favre took $1.1 million in TANF money from Nancy New "for speeches he never made."
"Favre repaid that, but he has neither repaid the $1.7 million he arranged for his drug company, Prevacus, to receive in exchange for giving Nancy New stock, nor the $5 million he orchestrated the USM Athletic Department to receive for a volleyball facility," the state attorneys wrote.
Favre's attorneys argued the Department of Human Services is suing the Hall of Famer to deflect from the department's own role in allowing fraud, and they filed multiple sets of papers seeking to have him dismissed from the suit.
State attorneys wrote in March that Favre's attorneys had given the court "a long press release" rather than legal arguments in trying to get him out of the lawsuit. The state attorneys wrote in May that the Mississippi Supreme Court does not grant appeals "based on whether a defendant is famous, or on speculations about the plaintiff's motives, or on fact disputes."