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ATRA Backs ‘Transparency’ Policies of WV’s New AG

In an op-ed published today by the State Journal in West Virginia, ATRA president Tiger Joyce offered support for the state’s new attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, and his proposed transparency policies aimed at providing the public with more information about the hiring of outside counsel.

Those policies include, first and foremost, a long overdue competitive bidding process for the selection of outside counsel that is comparable to those for road- or school-building contracts.  Another important provision calls for the attorney general to provide written explanations as to why, precisely, office staff needs help from outside lawyers for particular lawsuits.

In addition to specifying that the attorney general’s office will always remain in control of the litigation for which outside counsel is hired, Morrisey’s proposal also sets critical limits on just how much of the taxpayers’ money outside counsel can siphon off in contingency fees.  All of these provisions are significant steps in the right direction.

Unlike his predecessor, Darrell McGraw, who did deals with favored outside counsel behind closed doors and without disclosure, “Attorney General Morrisey deserves considerable credit for his encouraging early efforts to bring the hiring of outside counsel into the light.  And West Virginia voters deserve credit for choosing good-government reform over more of the same old shady dealings that had damaged their state’s reputation.  Digging out of a judicial hellhole isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be done when both citizens and policymakers grab shovels and work together,” Joyce’s op-ed concludes.

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