Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let the AG's office make contingency fee contracts!

Caldwell again delays action on contingency fee bill - Louisiana Politics | State Legislature News -

Contigency fee contracts-- which state that lawyers will only get paid if their case is successful-- with outsider firms will allow the State Attorney General's office to vigorously defend the state's interest while still subsisting on their limited budget. Private industry has lots of money to pit dazzling litigation teams against the AG's office in suits where the state's talented lawyers are understaffed and overworked.

Critics argue that allowing contingency fees for outside firms encourage plaintiffs to drum up lawsuits, but this is only speculation. The office still has the responsibility to do what is prudent for the state-- and that includes the state's industries that no Louisiana agency wants to damage unnecessarily. Legislation that provides for review of contingency fees, competitive bidding, and judicial discretion to limit the fees should result in a more rigorous protection of the state's- and therefore the people's-- interests and rights. The current jurisprudence makes it so that without specific authorization, the AG can't use contingency fee contracts- under the theory that this is somehow alienating state property. This argument doesn't seem fully convincing to me, because without enough manpower and resources to give the best showing in court that we can, the state will certainly lose out on some amount of recovery that would otherwise be state property.

Right now, if the state wants to bring any substantial private company into court-- or even just to defend against a lawsuit brought by one-- the fight can hardly be called fair. Unless we are going to quadruple the AG's budget, private firms willing to bet on the success of the case are the only viable solution.