OPEN ACCOUNTABILITY IN OFFICE
AUSTIN, TEXAS–As voters prepare to return to the polls for the primary election run-off on May 24, Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse is calling on all candidates for Attorney General to prioritize transparency and open accountability in office.
“At Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, we’re heartened to see the American Tort Reform Association again calling for attorneys general and candidates for those state offices to embrace a general transparency code,” said Robert Wood, spokesman for Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse. “We’re hopeful that all candidates will step up to sign this pledge and commit to good government.”
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) developed the Transparency Code as a collection of model policies that should govern the use of outside counsel by state attorneys general.
In 1999, Texas passed a law relating to how and when the state government could use outside counsel on litigation. The reason for the change stemmed from then-Attorney General Dan Morales’ decision to contract with five contingency fee lawyers to pursue claims against tobacco companies.
While it was discovered that these five personal injury lawyers did very little work on behalf of Texas taxpayers and the state’s lawsuit, they received $3.3 billion in fees when the cases were resolved as part of a larger national settlement.
In passing that law more than two decades ago, a bipartisan group of state leaders made transparency and accountability a top priority. Learn more about the law and the renewed push for transparency and accountability at tala.com. To see what leaders in Texas and other states have signed the Transparency Code, visit AGsunshine.com
The law requires the state to attempt to handle all litigation through in-house counsel. It outlines how an agency should handle contracting for outside counsel when it’s necessary to use lawyers outside of those employed by the state, requiring a contracting agency to first seek an hourly fee arrangement.
“Attorneys general should, of course, have the discretion and independence to enforce state law. Still, they must do so free from the influence of parties that may have a private interest in the outcome of any litigation their office may take on,” said Wood.
“Transparency and accountability are issues that should transcend partisanship,” added Wood.