Government Contracts with Private Lawyers
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On occasion, the state may hire private attorneys on contract to bring litigation on its behalf. These negotiations and lawsuits must be appropriately disclosed to garner the best deal for the taxpayer and to keep a profit motive from taking over where a public interest-motive should take precedence.
Is there an open process when a state attorney general hires outside counsel on a contingency fee basis?
Why does this matter?Without public oversight, contracts between state officials and private lawyers risk quid pro quo. There are well-documented examples of state officials hiring campaign-contributing law school buddies to bring litigation and receive millions of taxpayer dollars in return. An open hiring process is the best way to ensure contracts are based on necessity and won by merit.
Are there recordkeeping or disclosure requirements in place to provide transparency in relationships between state officials and private lawyers?
Why does this matter?Without public disclosure, contracts between state officials and private lawyers risk quid pro quo. There are well-documented examples of state officials hiring campaign-contributing law school buddies to bring litigation and receive millions of taxpayer dollars in return. Transparency provides a check on the relationships between state officials and private attorneys.
Are fees paid to state-hired attorneys capped in some way to protect taxpayer recovery?
Why does this matter?Hired private attorneys are often paid on contingency fee, meaning their paycheck is contingent upon victory. Contingency fees were originally introduced to offer a low-risk, higher-cost option to plaintiffs who might otherwise not be able to afford to bring a lawsuit. It is important that the legislature create rate parameters to maximize taxpayer recovery and refocus the profit motivation of private lawyers on the public interest motivations of state office holders.