State AGs to meet in Washington

Chris Rizo Feb. 26, 2010, 7:12am

U.S. Capitol building

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The nation's legion of state attorneys general will gather next week in the District of Columbia to hammer out multistate litigation strategy and meet with top-ranking federal officials, including the vice president.

The annual spring meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General is typically the time when the states' chief legal officers meet with the president, discuss ongoing multistate actions and plot their next collective legal moves -- in addition to raising campaign cash in the nation's capital.

NAAG spokeswoman Marjorie Tharp said 43 attorneys general are registered for the three-day convention, held at Washington's Fairmont hotel.

If the meeting's tentative agenda is any indication of what could be on AGs' minds this year, it's still the financial industry meltdown. On Monday afternoon, the attorneys general are scheduled to discuss community banks and whether they ought to be more heavily regulated.

The discussion -- Community Banks: Underappreciated and Overregulated, or Another Forum for Reform? -- will be moderated by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna of Washington.

Panelists include Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairwoman Sheila Bair and Chris Cole of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Behind closed doors, the attorneys general will hear Tuesday morning from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz and the chief of the U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division, Christine Varney.

Also on Tuesday, attorneys general are scheduled to meet about problems with employers wrongly classifying their workers as independent contractors. AGs have complained that unscrupulous companies do so to skirt state worker protection laws and to avoid paying workers' compensation premiums.

The discussion will be moderated by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat. Panelists include former U.S. Solicitor of Labor Gregory Jacob and Matt Capece of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

At this year's conclave, the president will not meet with the attorneys general. Instead, the officials will meet early Wednesday morning with Vice President Joe Biden, who has been criticized by some tort reform proponents for being too cozy with trial lawyers during his seven terms in the U.S. Senate representing Delaware.

Later Wednesday, also during closed session, the attorneys general will consider some best practices for the hiring and use of outside legal counsel. The American Tort Reform Association has called on the attorneys general to adopt standards to ensure transparency when AG hire private attorneys on a contingency-fee basis.

"State attorneys general have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to ensure their offices adhere to the strictest standards of transparency and accountability," ATRA President Tiger Joyce said in a statement.

In addition to three days of packed meetings for the nation's AGs, there is a bevy of political fundraisers planned for various attorneys general while they are in the District -- not surprising since there are 30 AG races this year, and among incumbent attorneys general at least 17 are running this year for other office, including governor and U.S. senator.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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