Archive for December, 2012


Mississippi’s points of lights - no longer “Judicial Hellhole”

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

The American Tort Reform Foundation released its latest “Judicial Hellholes” report and Mississippi doesn’t appear on the list of hellholes, on the watch list and is not even noted in the dishonorable mentions.

In fact, the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi legislature both are praised in the “Points of Light” section for actions dealing with the use of no-bid, private contingency-fee lawyers by the Attorney General.

From the report:

Mississippi Supreme Court Reins in Attorney General’s Alliance with Plaintiffs’ Lawyers.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, possibly the most storied user of contingent-fee agreements in the hiring of private-sector personal injury lawyers to enforce state law, will now need to comply with good-government safeguards if he intends to persist in the controversial practice. In a pair of rulings this year issued in a consumer protection lawsuit against Microsoft and a tax collection case against MCI, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the attorney general may not enter settlement agreements that require defendants to pay the fees of contingent-fee lawyers directly. Settlements are public funds that must be deposited into the state treasury, the court found. Agreeing with the state’s auditor, the court found that the attorney general may only pay private attorneys fees out of his approved legislative appropriation or contingent fund. The auditor had challenged respective payments of $10 million and $14 million to private lawyers in the two cases. It remains to be seen whether the rulings will provide needed oversight of the attorney generals’ ability to bypass the legislative appropriations process or will simply lead him to take the extra step of depositing settlement money in a state account, then writing a multi-million dollar check to the private lawyers. As noted in the legislative Points of Light, the Mississippi Legislature’s enactment of the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracts Act this May also should help safeguard the public and protect the due process rights of defendants by requiring the private lawyers to keep detailed time records, placing reasonable limits on contingent fees, precluding private lawyers from being compensated based on the amount of fines they impose, and establishing an “Outside Counsel Oversight Commission,” comprising the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state.

…and…

Mississippi

  • Led by Mark Baker, Chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, with key support from House Speaker Philip Gunn and Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairman W. Briggs Hopson III, Mississippi safeguarded state hiring of private lawyers on a contingent-fee basis (H.B. 211). Not surprisingly, current Attorney General Jim Hood fought final passage of the legislation with everything he had, including campaign communications designed to scare citizens and rally them against the much needed good-government legislation.

Jurisdictions that made the “Judicial Hellhole” list include California; West Virginia; Madison County, Illinois; New York City and Albany, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland.  Meanwhile Philadelphia; South Florida; Cook County, Illinois; New Jersey; Nevada; and Louisiana all made the “Watch List.”

You can read the full report here: Judicial Hellholes 2012/2013.


DeMint retirement could make Wicker telecom subcom ranking member

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has announced he will retire before the next congress is sworn in which could lead to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker serving as ranking member of the Senate telecom subcommittee, officially known as the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. The ranking member is the leader of the minority party on the committee.

DeMint is the current ranking member, but his resignation combined with the retirement of Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, moves South Dakota’s John Thune and Wicker up the seniority posts on this subcommittee.

But with DeMint and Snowe leaving, plus the retirement of the full Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation ranking member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Thune now becomes ranking member of the full committee, potentially clearing a path for Wicker to lead Republicans on the subcommittee. Because of the committee seniority structure, Wicker is now second only to Thune in full committee seniority on the GOP side.

Now this isn’t a done deal.  DeMint’s resignation could shake up several committees and subcommittees, but right now Wicker looks to be in a position of significant influence on telecommunications, internet and technology policy going forward - especially were Republicans to retake the Senate majority in 2014.

Mississippi telecom and technology industries - notably the Madison based C-Spire - will certainly appreciate one of their home state senators leading this subcommittee.  And as technology - mobile devices, apps, Internet, etc - continues to dominate finance, business and consumer interest nationwide, Wicker is in a position to play a significant role in this ever evolving and growing market.

UPDATE: From The Hill Blog suggests this could be even bigger news.

Sen. John Thune (S.D.) is the next most senior Republican on the committee, but he was also recently reelected as conference chairman. It is unclear whether he would be allowed to keep his party leadership role and take on the ranking member position.

Thune’s office did not respond to a request to comment.

Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) would be the next Republican in line after Thune on the panel.


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