Miss. Senate passes House bill that would limit AG's power

Jessica M. Karmasek Apr. 12, 2012, 10:00am


JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - The Mississippi Senate has sent a bill aimed at limiting state Attorney General Jim Hood's power back to the House.

According to the state Legislature's website, the Senate amended and passed House Bill 211 with a vote of 35-17 Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Senate returned the bill to the House for concurrence.

HB 211 is one of two measures, brought by the state's Republican lawmakers, that intend to limit Hood's power to hire outside lawyers.

In particular, HB 211 allows state officials, agencies, boards, commissions, departments or institutions to hire their own outside attorneys over the state's top lawyer.

The measure also requires the attorney general or any other state official make public contracts with outside lawyers.

Also under HB 211, all outside legal contracts must be filed with a state board and any contracts for more than $100,000 must be approved by that board.

Last month, the Senate voted 32-17 in favor of its own version of the House bill, Senate Bill 2084.

Under the bill, the attorney general would have to appoint outside lawyers if he decided not to represent an agency. It would also determine the percentage of a verdict outside lawyers could earn.

SB 2084 also would create a three-person panel called the Outside Counsel Oversight Commission. The commission would include the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state, and would deal with any related disputes.

The Senate bill, which had been referred to a House judiciary committee, died in committee earlier this month.

Hood, the only Democrat to hold a statewide elected office, has argued that the House bill violates the Mississippi Constitution, which gives him the sole authority to speak in court with one voice on behalf of the State.

But sponsors of the measure have said the bill would prevent Hood, or any other attorney general, from dictating the public policy of the state and would stop any possible political favoritism in hiring of outside lawyers.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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