SANTA FE, N.M. (Legal Newsline) - New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is the latest state official to catch flak from the Wall Street Journal over his relationship with Houston-based plaintiffs firm Bailey Perrin Bailey.
A Tuesday article details the status of a state contract given to BPB and renewed by King, who received $50,000 in contributions from the firm and member Kenneth Bailey's previous firm during his 2006 campaign. BPB was hired by King's predecessor to sue Janssen Pharmaceutica.
It has also sued the company on behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who also benefitted from BPB's support during his most recent campaign.
The report also noticed a five-month period the contract appears to have lapsed before it was renewed. In that period, the suit against Janssen was filed.
"It's possible that the lapsed contract was an innocent mistake that happened to go unnoticed until late November of 2008," the report says.
"Then again, it's also possible that Mr. King didn't want to renew the contract earlier because Bailey Perrin might have been required to disclose Mr. Bailey's generous campaign contributions to Mr. King back in 2006.
"A New Mexico law says that prospective contractors with the state must disclose political donations above $250 made in the previous two years. We can see how Mr. King would prefer to have that law firm-contractor gift kept under wraps."
King told the Journal that his contracts people probably didn't notice that it had expired. He also noted that he has a staff of only 80 lawyers and needs to use outside counsel like BPB on a contingency fee for complex litigation.
King has also hired Heard, Robins, Cloud & Lubel to sue Eli Lilly & Co. Bill Robins donated $10,000 to King in 2006.
Rendell hired BPB to represent the state, but has received criticism because the firm contributed $75,000 directly to his 2006 campaign, $16,000 in airplane travel and $25,000 to the Democratic Governors Association. Attorney General Tom Corbett had met with BPB but declined to hire it because he was not convinced by the evidence they planned to present.
Attorneys for Janssen have challenged the contingent fee agreement between Rendell and the firm. Their appeal is currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Attorneys for Janssen are not making the argument for BPB's disqualification based on the contributions given to Rendell, but have mentioned them in several briefs.
BPB had written, "Janssen's gratuitous identification of campaign contributions are no more relevant to the resolution of this matter than political contributions (Janssen counsel) Drinker Biddle & Reath's Political Action Committee made to various candidates presumably aligned with Drinker's and/or its clients' interests, which totaled nearly $120,000 during the 2004-06 election cycles."
Bailey has contributed heavily in other states, also giving $50,000 to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who hired BPB to pursue a claim against Eli Lilly & Co.
In Louisiana, another state BPB is representing in litigation, Bailey gave $20,000 to the state's Democratic Party. In Arkansas, which hired BPB for a suit against Janssen, he gave $70,000 to the Democratic Party in 2006.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.