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Bipartisan Senate Vote Sends Transparency Bill to Wisconsin’s Governor

With a bipartisan vote of 23-10, a good-government bill requiring transparency in the state’s hiring of outside counsel on a contingency fee basis cleared its final hurdle in Wisconsin’s Senate yesterday and will soon be singed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.

According to the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, “In addition to requiring the State to make a written determination that hiring private plaintiffs’ attorneys on a contingency basis is cost effective and in the best interests of the State, AB 27 also places caps on the amount of money plaintiffs’ attorneys can receive when representing the State.”

Furthermore, notes the WJCJ, “AB 27 provides transparency by requiring the State to post contingency fee contracts on the Government Accountability Board’s website.”

In a statement urging final passage yesterday, American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce said the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting (TiPAC) Act will help Wisconsin avoid so-called “pay to play” scandals that have enveloped various officials in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and elsewhere.

“In too many states without TiPAC statutes and standards that require transparency, attorneys general or other state officials have hired political supporters and personal colleagues to perform potentially lucrative legal work for the state without an open bidding process or records of compensation and work performed,” explained Joyce.

“Wisconsin, on the other hand, can now join a growing number of states, including neighbors Iowa and Minnesota, which have chosen the kind of transparency that taxpayers and voters deserve,” Joyce continued.  “This legislation will improve the reputation of the state’s civil justice system and make it easier to attract businesses and jobs.”

Joyce was quick to add: “Credit for this positive civil justice reform goes to many.  Representatives Kuglitsch, August, Alvin Ott, Craig, Stone, Schraa, Jacque, Spiros, Stroebel, Thiesfeldt and Speaker Robin Voss; and Senators Grothman, Vukmir, Farrow, Senate Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, and Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen all helped lead the way.  And with Gov. Walker’s solid record of empowering and protecting Wisconsin taxpayers, we expect him to sign the bill into law soon.”

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.

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