Attorneys General can hire their former firms, friends, or even campaign contributors to represent the state on a contingency basis.
Here are a few examples:
- In 1996, then-Texas Attorney General Dan Morales hired five firms on a contingency basis to file Texas’ tobacco lawsuit. Four of the five firms had contributed nearly $150,000 to Morales. Those law firms walked away from the settlement with $3.3 billion.
- In Kansas, Attorney General Carla Stovall hired her former law partners “as a favor,” despite the firm’s lack of expertise in product liability law, a key component of the case. The firm was awarded $27 million in contingency fees.
- The firms involved in Florida’s tobacco lawsuit walked away with $3.4 billion.
We need to establish clear guidelines and create an equitable process for state-contracted legal services. We need the H 1383, the Reasonable Attorney Fees for Taxpayers Act (RAFTA), sponsored by Representative Jim Kallinger.
Whether it’s road construction or a box of paperclips, the state uses a public bidding process before it spends the taxpayers’ dollars. H 1383, RAFTA, applies the same principles of fairness and accountability to state-contracted legal services.
The RAFTA would:
- Establish a competitive bidding process for legal contracts over $1,000,000.
- Place a $1,000 per hour limit on the amount of money trial lawyers can receive through contingency contracts with the state.
- Control attorney expenses.
- Open expense and contract records to the public.
- Allow legislative oversight over large legal contracts.
- Ensure taxpayers fair competition, quality representation, and government accountability.
What You Can Do
Our elected officials rarely hear from average voters. But most of them really do want to hear from you! Legislators face thousands of pieces of legislation every year, and they don’t know which ones are important to their constituents and which aren’t. Just one or two phone calls, or one or two letters, is a big deal. It lets your representatives know what you think is important.
H 1383 is currently under consideration in the Florida House State Administration Committee. We expect the committee to vote on the legislation this session. Send an e-mail, letter, or fax to your representative in support of H 1383, the Reasonable Attorneys Fees for Taxpayers Act, TODAY.