House bill would require approval for AG attorney hires

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When people sue the state of Louisiana, the attorney general's office is responsible for defending the state. But the attorney general's office will often hire outside law firms to try the cases. For example when three death row inmates sued the state to try and get air conditioning on Angola's death row, the AG's office hired a private law firm to defend that suit.

Now, House Bill 799 seeks to change the way outside law firms are hired.

"We want to put some transparency and accountability on some of these contracts. We want to know which counsel is being retained and to what extent and where the dollars are going," says Stephen Waguespack, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, a powerful lobbying group.

"This isn't a personal issue on any official or any case or anything like that. This is just a good government bill and it's similar to what other states have done to give the public the type of transparency and accountability they need on outside counsel contracts," says Waguespack.

The attorney general's office has testified against the measure in committee. They also had a limited response to this story saying they are reviewing the recent amendments. But proponents say it's pretty simple. And ultimately it will benefit citizens and not fatten up the wallets of attorneys.

"Any recovery dollars for the state goes to the state. So the default because of this law is going to be if we recover dollars it goes to the state general fund," says Waguespack.

The bill goes to the Senate floor for a vote on Wednesday.

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