JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood confirmed Tuesday that he has hired a former state attorney general and a former state Supreme Court justice to handle Mississippi's claims against oil giant BP.

Hood told The Associated Press Tuesday that he has hired Mike Moore, a Democrat who served as attorney general from 1988 to 2004, and Reuben Anderson, the first African-American justice to serve on the state's high court.

The attorney general also confirmed to the AP that he has hired Legier and Co., a New Orleans-based forensic accounting firm, to help the state develop its "economic damage model."

Frank Corder of Yall Politics had reported Hood's hiring of Moore last week. However, both the attorney general and Moore initially denied the relationship.

The contract, which was signed and dated Tuesday and of which Yall Politics obtained a copy, does not say specifically how Moore, or Anderson, will be paid.

Their fees, costs and expenses will be paid for by "one or more of the parties legally responsible for the incident at the conclusion of the litigation or negotiated settlement," the three-page contract states.

Basically, Moore, Anderson and Hood have agreed to work it out later and have BP pay the attorneys fees directly.

Moore, who now heads the Mike Moore Law Firm LLC in Flowood, was the first to file a lawsuit against a group of tobacco companies in 1994, insisting they should reimburse the state for the costs of treating those with smoking-related illnesses.

Moore eventually was named the lead negotiator of the Master Settlement Agreement, reached in 1998 by a total of 46 states and the four largest tobacco companies at the time.

The deal was worth $246 billion, including $4.1 billion for Mississippi, which was represented by now-jailed attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs.

Anderson, who served on the Court from 1985 to 1991, is now a senior partner at the law firm of Phelps Dunbar LLP in Jackson.

Mississippi has never formally sued BP over the Gulf oil spill. However, according to the AP, it is expected to participate in settlement talks with the other Gulf states.

Earlier this month, the company reached an agreement with hundreds of thousands of individuals and businesses affected by the spill worth an estimated $7.8 billion.

BP said the money will be paid to the plaintiffs from a $20 billion trust fund set up by the company.

Under the settlement proposal, the company would be released from claims by eligible members of the class action who were affected by the explosion and fire that occurred on Transocean's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, on April 20, 2010.

The accident killed 11 workers and resulted in the largest offshore spill -- an estimated 210 million gallons of oil -- in U.S. history.

Hood's hiring of Moore and Anderson comes in the wake of two measures, brought by the state's Republican lawmakers, aimed at limiting Hood's power.

Last week, the Mississippi Senate voted 32-17 for Senate Bill 2084, which would determine the percentage of a verdict outside lawyers, like Moore and Anderson, could earn.

Under the bill, the attorney general would have to appoint outside lawyers if he decided not to represent an agency.

SB 2084 also creates a three-person panel called the Outside Counsel Oversight Commission. The commission includes the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state, and would deal with any related disputes.

Last month, the House passed its own version of the Sunshine Act.

House Bill 211 allows state officials, agencies, boards, commissions, departments or institutions to hire their own outside attorneys over the state's top lawyer.

The measure also requires the attorney general or any other state official make public contracts with outside lawyers.

Under HB 211, all outside legal contracts must be filed with a state board and any contracts for more than $100,000 must be approved by that board.

Hood has argued that the House bill violates the Mississippi Constitution, which gives him the sole authority to speak in court with one voice on behalf of the State.

But sponsors of both measures argue that the bills would prevent Hood, or any other attorney general, from dictating the public policy of the state and would stop any possible political favoritism in hiring of outside lawyers.

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

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