Former Miss. AG criticizes sunshine bill

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 24, 2012



JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Former Mississippi Attorney General and state Supreme Court Justice Edwin Pittman says he is concerned about a bill aimed at limiting current Attorney General Jim Hood's authority.

According to WLBT-TV in Jackson, Pittman sent a letter this week to Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Briggs Hopson, chairman of the state's Senate Judiciary Committee.

Pittman, a Democrat, served as attorney general from 1984 to 1988. In January 1989, he moved to the state Supreme Court. He became chief justice in January 2001, and later stepped down in March 2004.

"The attorney general is the lawyer for the state of Mississippi, by law," Pittman said in his letter.

However, House Bill 211, also referred to as the Sunshine Act, would allow state officials, agencies, boards, commissions, departments or institutions to hire their own outside attorneys over the state's top lawyer.

Pittman says the measure could end up creating more problems for the state.

"You could have 25 agencies, with 25 lawyers, with 25 different views of what the law is," he wrote.

Like Hood, Pittman says the bill is unconstitutional and will end up costing taxpayers.

However, sponsors of the bill, including Gunn, say there are no associated costs with HB 211.

The bill -- of which a similar measure was killed earlier this month -- passed the House last week and was referred to a Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

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

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