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Louisiana AG’s ‘Pay-to-Play’ Party Rolls on in 2013

The all too cozy relationships between Louisiana’s attorney general and various personal injury lawyers and law firms that were criticized in the latest Judicial Hellholes report appear to be continuing in the New Year.

According to the Associated Press, Pelican State AG Buddy Caldwell “has spent nearly $24 million building the state’s legal case against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, with much of the money paid to outside law firms that have contributed to his campaigns.”

Caldwell chose those lawyers himself, explains the AP, “under a state law that allows contracts for professional services to be awarded without a competitive process.”

Refusing to be interviewed by the AP, Caldwell nonetheless tried to defend his seemingly self-serving actions in an email, noting there is no legal impediment to hiring firms or lawyers who were generous to his election bids.

“Properly handling this case requires expertise and experience in areas of mass tort and complex litigation, as well as class action and environmental law,” Caldwell wrote, calling the case one of the largest and most complicated in history. “Few attorneys have this experience, and we have no staff attorneys who could fulfill this role without contract counsel.”

Then the obvious question that Louisiana lawmakers, voters and taxpayers ought to be asking of AG Caldwell is this: Why, sir, doesn’t your office have such experienced attorneys on staff?  With so much of the state’s economy dependent on the oil and gas industry, there’s simply no excuse for the Louisiana attorney general’s office not being sufficiently staffed with attorneys who are well versed in related law.

Equally obvious is the need for Louisiana lawmakers to consider legislation that eliminates or severely limits no-bid contracts for legal work.  If the state wouldn’t undertake a highway project without asking for competitive bids, it shouldn’t undertake lawsuits without the same, good-government safeguard in place.

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