Outside counsel bill becomes law in Florida

John O'Brien Apr. 14, 2010, 2:43pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday signed into a law a bill that increases transparency in contracts given to private attorneys while capping the amount they can make.

The law will affect private attorneys hired by the Attorney General's Office and is modeled after current policies in place under Attorney General Bill McCollum. It includes a tier system that caps attorneys fees at $50 million.

"By giving Floridians increased access to their government, they have the opportunity for to hold their government accountable," Crist said.

"I am committed to maintaining the integrity of our competitive procurement process and am grateful to the Attorney General for being an advocate for Florida taxpayers and of government in the sunshine."

Crist is a former attorney general who is running for U.S. Senate. McCollum is hoping to replace him as governor.

The legislation provides more readily available public information about contingency fee contracts, such as timesheets and firms' bids. Sen. John Thrasher and Rep. Eric Eisnaugle sponsored the legislation.

A similar measure passed earlier this year for contracts given by the State Board of Administration to private firms for securities lawsuits.

U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform president Lisa Rickard attended the ceremony and lauded the measure. Legal Newsline is owned by the ILR.

"Florida has now set the standard for the nation for how states that allow private contingency fee lawsuits should engage in hiring these lawyers," she said.

"We encourage other states that permit their AGs to hire private contingency fee counsel to follow suit to ensure that litigation brought by AGs is motivated by the public good, not by private profit."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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