Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's feelings concerning his office's practice of hiring outside lawyers to represent the state were the subject of a recent editorial in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Sid Salter wrote that Hood's view that outside counsel should be paid $150 per hour -- information that came out during a recent Supreme Court decision -- was needed a couple years ago when Hood hired outside counsel in a case against MCI.
Hood has been frequently criticized for hiring Boonesville attorney Joey Langston, a heavy campaign contributor, to represent the Attorney General's Office as a special assistant attorney general in the case, which was settled in 2005.
As a result of the settlement, Langston's firm received $14 million, paying a Louisiana firm $7 million for first noticing the alleged problem -- back taxes owed the state as a result of the 2002 collapse of MCI's predecessor, Worldcom.
Other campaign contributors have been hired to represent the state in its case against five insurance companies that allegedly unfairly handled policy claims after Hurricane Katrina.
Hood replied to a request from Gov. Haley Barbour for the hiring of outside counsel in another case by authorizing Barbour to hire someone at up to $150 per hour.
"Apparently, when the governor or state treasurer of Mississippi wants to hire outside counsel to represent him, the going rate is $150 per hour," Salter wrote. "But when the state's attorney general - at least when (Mike) Moore or Hood hold that position - hires outside counsel, the going rate is a contingency fee negotiated by the attorney general with no oversight from anyone."
Trial lawyer Richard Scruggs' firm earned $1.4 billion when it was hired by then-Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore to negotiate the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, reached in 1998