JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Mississippi Auditor Stacey Pickering has again lost a challenge to attorneys fees paid to private attorneys hired to represent the state by Attorney General Jim Hood.
Hinds County Chancellor Denise Owens on Wednesday ruled in favor of Hood and his attorneys after Pickering objected to $10 million in attorneys fees from a lawsuit against Microsoft. Political Web site Y'all Politics has a copy of the order.
Pickering argued that settlement funds must be given to the Legislature for appropriation.
"Although the settlement in this action does not provide for civil penalties, it is clear that the recovery is based on civil penalties under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act," Owens wrote.
"There is no other source of recovery. The court finds that the attorney general attorneys fees recovered under the Consumer Protection Act, as specially authorized by the act, are not required to be paid to the state general fund, but constitute part of the "contingent fund" of the attorney general referenced by (state law)."
The settlement gave consumers $12 vouchers, while the State of Mississippi received $40 million from Microsoft.
It provided $60 million in vouchers to consumers, businesses, governments and public schools for use in buying Microsoft products. The $40 million for the State is the most paid to a state government in any of Microsoft's 22 similar antitrust settlements with other states.
Pickering also lost in his objection to attorneys fees paid to a pair of since-convicted felons.
The state of Mississippi agreed to a $100 million settlement over back taxes allegedly owed by Worldcom in 2005 and was represented by admitted felons Joey Langston and Timothy Balducci, both of whom have pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe a judge.
Pickering said the attorneys in the Worldcom case were paid about $2,000 per hour, based on the information he could gather. Pickering said Hood did not comply with a request for a complete listing of hours and work performed.
Hood refused to defend the Auditor's Office in the dispute with Langston and Balducci. Langston was a major campaign contributor of his.
Langston and Balducci pleaded guilty to judicial bribery schemes involving famed plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.