From The Birmingham News
Alabama Attorney General Troy King has no accountability in deal with trial lawyers
Sunday, September 07, 2008
There is a disturbing lack of accountability in Attorney General Troy King's burgeoning relationship with trial lawyers in his contracting them to sue on behalf of Alabama, as in the state's lawsuits against 73 pharmaceutical companies.
Importantly, Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse doesn't oppose these suits, as such. What AVALA opposes is King's secretive handling of the lawsuits. King promised openness, honesty and restraint. Alabama citizens have seen none of these.
Instead, he is misrepresenting AVALA's call for state accountability as an effort to thwart or undermine the lawsuits. That charge is untrue.
AVALA has only asked, in the main, that contracts with private, personal-injury trial lawyers be publicly put up for bid and that such contracts, once agreed upon, be put on the Internet for public consumption. And that all trial lawyers hired to represent the citizens of Alabama submit a detailed accounting of time and expenses before they are paid, and that most of the money from any award go to the state General Fund.
King says he is putting the contracts up for bid and that, since they are reviewed by a legislative committee, they are open to sunshine. These things just aren't true. King's bid process has been strictly in-house, so nobody but King and his fellow travelers know how he uses it.
King hired the firm of Hand Arendall to handle the pharmaceutical lawsuits. Hand Arendall immediately associated the infamous Jere Beasley law firm to handle the lawsuits.
Everyone knows the contracts/association were a done deal from the start. Every lawyer I have talked to about it, whether plaintiff or defense, agrees on it. Where is the openness? The Legislative Review Committee can delay such a contract but cannot void it. Where is the accountability?
Beasley has asked, and been refused by a jury, for some $800 million in punitive damages. In the state's lower courts, out-of-town defendants such as the pharmaceutical companies are often on the short side where justice is concerned. When you add the power of the state to such a lawsuit, the playing field is tilted even more.
The fact that punitive damages were refused proves the lightness of the case. Yet King agreed to push for maximum punitives. Where is restraint in this lawsuit-hungry land for which state-sponsored cases cry out?
AVALA has been asking for openness and restraint from the attorney general and the governor's office for more than a year. King has flatly and continuously misrepresented his position and ours on sunshine and restraint. He has demanded it of other offices and yet protects his own fiefdom. That's intolerable.
King says AVALA has been bought by pharmaceutical companies. Nothing is farther from the truth. We've even offered to take a polygraph on that fact.
King has said he's representing the people of Alabama. Sadly, his record doesn't appear to reflect it. On top of this sorry episode, there's King's questionable use of his office and his position. He had an expensive night in Atlanta for which someone else picked up most of the tab. He apparently used his position to try to get someone in his office a job with the state two-year college system, even while his office was supposed to be investigating the system.
King is the second-highest paid attorney general in the United States. Unfortunately, he might be the most secretive. A darkness greater than night hangs over his office like a pall.
Skip Tucker is executive director of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse.
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