Claims from Democratic lawmakers that Republican legislation aimed at changing the state’s outside counsel process for the attorney general’s office is “retaliation” against Attorney General Jim Hood‘s stance on former Gov. Haley Barbour‘s controversial pardons ignore a substantial amount of Mississippi legal and political history.
State Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, called Senate Bills 2084 and 2102 “retaliation” against Hood against fighting Barbour’s “release of over 200 Mississippi felons, including murderers, rapists and child sex offenders” at the end of Barbour’s gubernatorial term. The legislation would limit fees outside counsel attorneys can receive from contingency fee contracts with the state. Current law places no limits on attorney’s fees in such suits.
“This retaliatory stunt couldn’t come at a worse time,” said Evans. “At this moment, General Hood is working to recover tens of millions owed to the state’s retirement system, now is not the time to tie his hands.” Evans went on to assert that Hood had recovered over $500 million for state taxpayers that “didn’t cost taxpayers a dime.”
But the fact is that the furor over outside counsel contracts has been raging long before Barbour was elected governor and the legislation filed this session had absolutely nothing to do with the pardons.
The outside counsel fight has been ongoing in Mississippi since the late Gov. Kirk Fordice and former Attorney General Mike Moore battled over Mississippi’s $4.1 billion tobacco settlement.
Current Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, while serving as state auditor in 2006, filed suit to get back $14 million in legal fees from the state’s MCI-Worldcom lawsuit – claiming the legal fees belonged to the state and must under law be appropriated by the Legislature. Current Republican State Auditor Stacey Pickering carried on the Bryant lawsuit.