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Scruggs Fallout: Tighter Rules on Lawyer Hiring

The federal indictment of prominent Mississippi trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs on charges that he and four others tried to bribe a state judge hasn't done much for the reputation of lawyers in the Magnolia State. One offshoot of the Scruggs scandal is a bill making its way through the state legislature that would require the state to go through a public bidding process before contracting with a private law firm. An editorial this week in the Brookhaven, Miss., newspaper The Daily Leader says that's a good idea.

The sunshine bill (Senate Bill 2188) would apply primarily to state contracts with law firms where the billing is expected to exceed $500,000. It would require the attorney general, before contracting with an outside lawyer, to submit RFPs to at least three firms and to request review of any contract by a review board. Contracts would cap contingent fees at $1 million and require firms to submit detailed time and expense records. According to the editorial, the state Senate approved the measure Friday and it now goes to the House.

Supporters say the bill would increase accountability in high-profile cases such as against the tobacco industry. But Mississippi AG Jim Hood says the high-profile cases are only a small portion of his office's work and that firms that suggest particular lawsuits should get the contracts to handle them. The Daily Leader comes down on the side of the supporters, asking: "What can it hurt to have a more open selection process and a little sun shining on those who stand to gain from the legal activities?"

The bill, by the way, would authorize the contract review board to hire its own outside counsel to advise it in its work reviewing other outside counsel.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 30, 2008 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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