Sun needed when picking law firms

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 28, 2008

As officials and the public come to grips with eventssurrounding a judicial bribery scandal, a bill making its waythrough the Mississippi Legislature would require a bidding processwhen the state attorney general’s office enters into a contractwith a private law firm.

The Senate approved the bill Friday. It now moves to the House,where similar bills have died in years past.

The lucrative contracts were a main point of debate during lastyear’s attorney general’s election. Republican challenger AlHopkins, though, was not able to get enough traction from the issueto be successful in his attempt to oust incumbent AG Jim Hood.

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Now, a so-called “Sunshine Law” would require contracts to belooked over by a review board and, with some exceptions, limitcontingency checks given to private attorneys to $1 million.

Supporters contend the law would increase accountability in theoften high-profile cases. Hood has maintained that lawsuits likethe ones against the tobacco industry and MCI are only a small partof his office’s activities and that contracts should go to thefirms that present the idea to pursue the particular lawsuits.

Whether small or large, lawsuits involve potentially millions ofdollars in legal fees for attorneys. What can it hurt to have amore open selection process and a little sun shining on those whostand to gain from the legal activities?