HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood recently told a state newspaper that his office's current system used when hiring outside counsel is doing just fine.
Hood met Wednesday with the editorial board at the Hattiesburg American, telling it, "I put it on the table. I like to tell it like it is and take it to the chin.
"The reason I say the system is working is because it's a first-come-first-serve basis."
Hood has been the target of criticism for those seeking to reform the way state attorneys general hiring private practice attorneys to represent their state. The American Tort Reform Association recently urged attorneys general to adopt a transparency code.
"With increasing regularity, state attorneys general are hiring personal injury lawyers from the private sector to perform legal work for the state, and hundreds of millions of dollars in contingency fees are sometimes at stake," ATRA President Tiger Joyce said.
"Yet some state AGs award such lucrative contracts to their political supporters without competitive bidding and with little or no oversight from the public or state legislatures."
As a result of a 2005 settlement with MCI, Hood contributor Joey Langston's firm received $14 million, though he paid $7 million of that to a Louisiana firm.
Also, the three trial lawyers hired by Hood to help represent the state in a lawsuit against five insurance companies who allegedly shortchanged policyholders after Hurricane Katrina were all contributors to his campaign in 2003.
Danny Cupit offered $1,000 to Hood, a Democrat, in July of that year, and William Liston of Liston/Lancaster ponied up $10,000.
Crymes G. Pittman, meanwhile, was the largest contributor. Between March 12, 2003-June 28, 2004, Pittman made five donations totaling $25,000. His fellow partners in his law firm (Robert Germany, Joseph Roberts Jr. and C. Victor Welsh III) combined for six donations equaling $33,500.
"I don't wanna be seen as slipping around or doing anything like that," Hood told the newspaper. "I approved (Langston) because I knew it was a good firm and that's the only firm that wanted to do it.
"All that about partisanship and giving it to your friends is not correct."
Hood will battle for re-election next year against Republican Al Hopkins, who will be unopposed in his primary.