Missouri Chamber testifies in favor of transparency in private attorney contracting legislation

 

On April 24, the House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on HB 851, sponsored by Rep. Mark Parkinson.  The proposed legislation would put a cap on fees that are awarded to outside attorneys hired by the Missouri Attorney General to represent the State in legal affairs.

This issue is also dealt with in SB 18, sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, and HB 217, sponsored by Rep. Stanley Cox, which are advancing through the legislature.

As workloads have increased, so have the use of contingency lawyers in Attorneys General offices across the country. Missouri is no different. In recent years, Missouri’s Attorney General has paid up to $5 million annually in outside attorney fees.

In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation to ensure that the public is informed about how states’ attorneys general hire outside lawyers to work for taxpayers’ interests. Seven states have enacted similar laws that include a limit on fees for contingency fee attorneys, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, and Texas.

“Contingency fee limits help assure that litigation brought on behalf of the State is motivated by the public good, not by private profit,” Alex Curchin, general counsel/governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, testified. “This bill would protect settlement money from being eroded by attorney’s fees and instead going back to the taxpayers.”

No action was taken on the bill. It awaits a vote by the committee.

For more information about TIPAC and other similar issues, please contact Alex Curchin at acurchin@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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