2007 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A; Appropriations
By: Representative Denny
AN ACT TO BE ENTITLED THE "MISSISSIPPI OPEN LAWYER FEES ACT OF 2007"; TO PROVIDE THAT NO STATE AGENCY SHALL ENTER INTO A CONTRACT FOR LEGAL SERVICES WITH PRIVATE ATTORNEYS EXCEEDING ONE MILLION DOLLARS WITHOUT A HEARING ON THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT CONDUCTED BY THE LEGISLATURE; TO PROVIDE DEFINITIONS; TO ESTABLISH A JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ON STATE AGENCY LEGAL CONTRACTS FOR THE PURPOSE OF CONDUCTING SUCH HEARINGS; TO PROVIDE A PROCEDURE FOR THE SUBMISSION OF SUCH PROPOSED CONTRACTS FOR COMMENT BY THE LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE; TO AMEND SECTIONS 7-5-1 AND 7-5-7, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Mississippi Open Lawyer Fees Act of 2007."
SECTION 2. For the purposes of this act, a contract in excess of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00) is one in which the fee paid to a private attorney or group of attorneys, either in the form of a flat, hourly or contingent fee, and their expenses, exceed, or can be reasonably expected to exceed, One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00).
SECTION 3. No state agency, or public official on behalf of a state agency, shall enter into a contract for legal services exceeding One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00) without the opportunity for at least one (1) hearing in the Legislature on the terms of the legal contract in accordance with Section 4 of this act.
SECTION 4. (1) As provided in the requirements of Section 3, any state agency or public official on behalf of a state agency entering into a contract for legal services in excess of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00) shall file a copy of said proposed contract with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate who shall submit such contract to the Chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on State Agency Legal Contracts created under subsection (2).
(2) There is created the Joint Legislative Committee on State Agency Legal Contracts, hereinafter referred to as the "Joint Committee." The Joint Committee shall be composed of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Mississippi, the Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Chairman of the Judiciary "A" Committee of the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the Judiciary "A" Committee of the Senate, four (4) members of the House of Representatives to be named by the Speaker and four (4) members of the Senate to be named by the Lieutenant Governor. The chairmanship of the Joint Committee shall alternate for twelve-month periods, beginning on May 1 of each year, between the Chairman of the Judiciary "A" Committee of the House and the Chairman of the Judiciary "A" Committee of the Senate, with the Chairman of the Judiciary "A" Committee of the Senate serving as the first chairman. If an appointed member is unable to attend, another legislator may be designated to attend by the Speaker or the Lieutenant Governor, as the case may be.
There shall be no business transacted without the presence of a quorum of the Joint Committee. A quorum shall be eight (8) members, to consist of four (4) members from the House of Representatives and four (4) members from the Senate. No action shall be valid unless approved by the majority of those members present and voting.
The members of the Joint Committee shall receive per diem as authorized by law for their services in carrying out the duties of the Joint Committee, and a daily expense allowance equal to that received for regular committee meetings, including mileage as authorized by Section 25-3-41, however, in no case shall the members of the Joint Committee draw per diem while the Legislature is in regular or special session.
The Joint Committee shall meet upon the call of the chairman. The authority of the Joint Committee to meet shall not be limited to those occasions when the Legislature is in regular session.
(3) Within forty-five (45) days after the receipt of a contract for legal services by the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate, the Joint Committee shall hold a public hearing or hearings on the proposed contract and shall issue a report to the referring state agency or official. The report shall include any proposed changes to the proposed contract voted upon by the committee. The state agency or state official shall review the report and adopt a final contract as deemed appropriate in view of the report and shall file its final contract with the Joint Committee.
(4) If the proposed contract does not contain the changes proposed by the Joint Committee, the referring state agency or official shall send a letter to the Joint Committee accompanying the final contract stating the reasons why such proposed changes were not adopted. The Joint Committee may again hold a public hearing or hearings on the proposed contract or take other such action it deems appropriate. Not earlier than forty-five (45) days after the filing of such letter and final contract with the committee, the state agency or official may enter into the final contract.
(5) Nothing in this act shall be construed to expand the authority of any state agency or public official to enter into contracts where no such authority previously existed.
SECTION 5. Section 7-5-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
7-5-1. The Attorney General provided for by Section 173 of the Mississippi Constitution shall be elected at the same time and in the same manner as the Governor is elected. His term of office shall be four (4) years and his compensation shall be fixed by the Legislature. He shall be the chief legal officer and advisor for the state, both civil and criminal, and is charged with managing all litigation on behalf of the state. No arm or agency of the state government shall bring or defend a suit against another such arm or agency without prior written approval of the Attorney General. He shall have the powers of the Attorney General at common law and is given the sole power to bring or defend a lawsuit on behalf of a state agency, the subject matter of which is of statewide interest, and he shall intervene and argue the constitutionality of any statute when notified of a challenge thereto, pursuant to the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. His qualifications for office shall be as provided for chancery and circuit judges in Section 154 of the Mississippi Constitution. This section shall be subject to the provisions of House Bill No. ___, 2007 Regular Session.
SECTION 6. Section 7-5-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
7-5-7. The Governor may engage counsel to assist the Attorney General in cases to which the state is a party when, in his opinion, the interest of the state requires it, subject to the action of the Legislature in providing compensation for such services, and subject to the provisions of House Bill No. __, 2007 Regular Session.
The Attorney General is hereby authorized and empowered to appoint and employ special counsel, on a fee or salary basis, to assist the Attorney General in the preparation for, prosecution, or defense of any litigation in the state or federal courts or before any federal commission or agency in which the state is a party or has an interest.
The Attorney General may designate such special counsel as special assistant attorney general, and may pay such special counsel reasonable compensation to be agreed upon by the Attorney General and such special counsel, in no event to exceed recognized bar rates for similar services.
The Attorney General may also employ special investigators on a per diem or salary basis, to be agreed upon at the time of employment, for the purpose of interviewing witnesses, ascertaining facts, or rendering any other services that may be needed by the Attorney General in the preparation for and prosecution of suits by or against the State of Mississippi, or in suits in which the Attorney General is participating on account of same being of statewide interest.
The Attorney General may pay travel and other expenses of employees and appointees made hereunder in the same manner and amount as authorized by law for the payment of travel and expenses of state employees and officials.
The compensation of appointees and employees made hereunder shall be paid out of the Attorney General's Contingent Fund, or out of any other funds appropriated to the Attorney General's Office.
This section is subject to the provisions of House Bill No. ___, 2007 Regular Session.
SECTION 7. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.