McCollum's contingency fee legislation pops up again

John O'Brien Dec. 4, 2009, 2:44pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is again attempting to push through legislation that would change how his office does business with private attorneys.

His efforts were thwarted seven months ago, but state Sen. John Thrasher has re-introduced the legislation, which caps the amount of money private attorneys hired to represent the State can recover.

A report in The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville notes that trial lawyers strongly opposed Thrasher in his campaign last year.

The bill puts caps on the amount outside attorneys hired by the State could earn, as well as provides more readily available public information about contingency fee contracts. It is modeled after the practices McCollum uses.

"This was an important piece of legislation, one which we will pursue again next year," McCollum said after it failed to pass in May.

An amendment to the bill became an issue. It allowed outside attorneys to make more than the cap system allowed if the attorney general thought they deserved more and a majority of the four Florida Cabinet members (governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner) agreed.

On the last day of the session for non-budget items, the House asked the Senate to recede the amendment. House Speaker Larry Cretul had the power to call for a vote on the amendment but did not.

The original bill was amended by the Senate. Sen. Dennis Jones, a Republican, pushed the amendment.

The system provides a certain amount of attorneys fees for each tier of an award or settlement and allows a maximum of $50 million. The amendment said the caps may be exceeded if the attorney general determines if there were exigent or unusual circumstances or specialized legal knowledge or experience was needed.

McCollum is running for governor next year.

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