Alabama Passes Important Transparency Bill, Limits State’s Hiring of Outside Counsel
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Darren McKinney (202) 682-0084
ATRA Lauds Alabama Lawmakers’ Final Passage of ‘Transparency’ Bill
New Law Will Help Make State More Attractive to Employers
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 21, 2013 – The American Tort Reform Association today applauded Alabama lawmakers for final passage of legislation that will bring “good-government transparency to the state’s hiring of private sector attorneys on a contingency fee basis.”
ATRA president Tiger Joyce said his organization has helped make the case for H.B. 227, the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting (TiPAC) Act, which passed the House by a nearly 2-1 margin on April 16 and by a 28-1 (with one abstention) Senate vote yesterday.
“As is often the case with the crafting and enactment of positive civil justice reforms, credit for this legislation goes to many,” said Joyce. “Representative Paul DeMarco, Senator Cam Ward, Senate Speaker Pro Tem Del Marsh, Speaker Mike Hubbard and Attorney General Luther Strange all helped lead the way, and we expect Gov. [Robert] Bentley, with his solid record of promoting economic growth and jobs in Alabama, to sign the bill into law soon.
“In too many states without comparable statutes, attorneys general or other state officials have sometimes hired their friends or political supporters to perform legal work for the state without an open bidding process and with few if any records kept about compensation and work performed,” continued Joyce.
“But Alabama now joins a growing number of states, including neighboring Mississippi, that have chosen the kind of transparency that taxpayers and voters deserve. This legislation will improve the reputation of the state’s civil justice system and make it easier to attract businesses and jobs,” he concluded.
The legislation provides that the state may not enter into a contingency fee contract with any attorney or law firm unless the contracting agency makes a written determination prior to entering into the contract that contingency fee representation is both cost-effective and in the public interest. It also limits contingency fees relative to the size of the state’s recovery in a lawsuit to help assure that litigation brought on behalf of the state is motivated by the public good, not by private profit. It also requires the posting of any contract and any payment of contingency fees online for public scrutiny, among other things.
ATRA has championed a national effort to pass state legislation that codifies a uniform set of standards and brings more transparency and accountability to the hiring of outside contingency fee counsel.
The American Tort Reform Association, based in Washington, D.C., is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to tort and liability reform through public education and the enactment of legislation. Its members include nonprofit organizations and small and large companies, as well as trade, business and professional associations from the state and national level. The American Tort Reform Foundation is a sister organization dedicated primarily to research and public education.