2015 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A
By: Representative Baker
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 7-5-1 AND 7-5-8, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE APPROVAL OF THE OUTSIDE COUNSEL OVERSIGHT COMMISSION IN CERTAIN ACTIONS BROUGHT BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. 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, except as otherwise specifically provided by law. No arm or agency of the state government shall bring or defend a suit against another arm or agency without prior written approval of the Attorney General. He shall have the powers of the Attorney General at common law and, except as otherwise provided by law, 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, except that in matters wherein the amount reasonably sought to be recovered by the state or arm or agency thereof exceeds the sum of Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00) inclusive of attorney's fees, interest and costs, the Attorney General shall not file suit or otherwise assert such a claim or cause of action or employ special or outside counsel to file such suit or otherwise assert such a claim or cause or action, without the prior written approval of the Outside Counsel Oversight Commission. 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.
SECTION 2. Section 7-5-8, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
7-5-8. (1) Before entering into a contingency fee contract with outside counsel, the state, an arm or agency of the state, or a statewide elected officer acting in his official capacity must first make a written determination that contingency fee representation is both cost-effective and in the public interest. The required written determination shall include specific findings for each of the following factors:
(a) Whether there exist sufficient and appropriate legal and financial resources within the Attorney General's office to handle the matter.
(b) The time and labor required; the novelty, complexity, and difficulty of the questions involved; and the skill requisite to perform the attorney services properly.
(c) The geographic area where the attorney services are to be provided.
(d) The amount of experience desired for the particular kind of attorney services to be provided and the nature of the outside attorney's experience with similar issues or cases.
(2) (a) The state, an arm or agency of the state, or a statewide elected officer acting in his official capacity may not enter into a contingency fee contract that provides for the outside attorney to receive a contingency fee, exclusive of reasonable costs and expenses incurred in connection with the case, which is in excess of the following:
(i) Twenty-five percent (25%) of any recovery of up to Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000.00); plus
(ii) Twenty percent (20%) of any portion of such recovery between Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000.00) and Fifteen Million Dollars ($15,000,000.00); plus
(iii) Fifteen percent (15%) of any portion of such recovery between Fifteen Million Dollars ($15,000,000.00) and Twenty Million Dollars ($20,000,000.00); plus
(iv) Ten percent (10%) of any portion of such recovery between Twenty Million Dollars ($20,000,000.00) and Twenty-five Million Dollars (25,000,000.00); plus
(v) Five percent (5%) of any portion of such recovery exceeding Twenty-five Million Dollars ($25,000,000.00).
(b) Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section, a contingency fee shall not exceed an aggregate of Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000.00), exclusive of reasonable costs and expenses incurred in connection with the case, and irrespective of the number of lawsuits filed or the number of attorneys retained to achieve the recovery.
(c) A contingency fee shall not be based on penalties or civil fines awarded or any amounts attributable to penalties or civil fines.
(3) The limits on fees set forth in subsection (2) of this section shall not apply if:
(a) The state, an arm or agency of the state, or a statewide elected officer acting in his official capacity makes a written determination stating the reasons why a greater fee is necessary, proper, and in the best interests of the state in a particular case; and
(b) The Outside Counsel Oversight Commission approves any terms of the contingency contract that exceed the limits set forth in subsection (2) of this section.
(4) The Outside Counsel Oversight Commission shall consist of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Secretary of State; actions of the commission shall be taken by majority vote. Appeal from a decision of the Outside Counsel Oversight Commission shall be to any court of competent jurisdiction.
(5) (a) Copies of any executed contingency fee contract and the applicable written determination to enter into a contingency fee contract with the outside attorney shall be posted on the Attorney General's website for public inspection within five (5) business days after the date the contract is executed unless the state, arm or agency of the state, or statewide elected officer retaining outside counsel makes a determination, subject to the approval of the Outside Counsel Oversight Commission, that to do so would negatively affect the state's interest, and shall remain posted on the website for the duration of the contingency fee contract, including any extensions or amendments to the contract.
(b) If the determination is made and duly approved that posting the contract will negatively affect the interests of the state, the contract will be posted on the Attorney General's website within five (5) days of the occurrence of the earliest of the following:
(i) Filing of the lawsuit for which the contract was executed;
(ii) Entry of appearance for any pending matter for which the contract was executed; or
(iii) From the time the outside attorney engages in any substantive action on behalf of the state relative to the subject matter for which the contract was executed.
(c) Any payment of contingency fees shall be posted on the Attorney General's website within fifteen (15) days after the payment of the contingency fees to the outside attorney and shall remain posted on the website for at least one (1) year after the date payment is made.
(6) An outside attorney under contract to provide services to the state on a contingency fee basis shall, from the inception of the contract until not less than four (4) years after the contract expires or is terminated, maintain detailed current records, including documentation of all expenses, disbursements, charges, credits, underlying receipts and invoices, and other financial transactions that concern the providing of attorney services. In addition, the outside attorney shall maintain detailed contemporaneous time records for the attorneys and paralegals working on the matter in increments of no greater than one-tenth (1/10) of an hour, and shall promptly provide these records to the Attorney General upon request.
(7) (a) If an arm or agency of the state or a statewide elected officer contracts for outside legal counsel pursuant to Section 7-5-39(3) on a contingency fee basis, the arm or agency of the state or the statewide elected officer shall provide complete and timely information to the Office of the Attorney General as to every requirement of this section for inclusion in the report under this section. The Office of the Attorney General shall post the information as received on its website within five (5) days of receipt.
(b) The arm or agency of the state or statewide elected official responsible for retaining outside counsel shall provide complete and timely information to the Office of the Attorney General as to every requirement of Section 7-5-21 for inclusion in the docket required by that section.
(8) Approval of the Outside Counsel Oversight Commission is required for any claim or cause of action where the amount sought, inclusive of attorney's fees, cost and interest, exceeds Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00) as required in Section 7-5-1.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2015.