Louisiana Lets in the Sunshine

If you’ve been paying attention to legal reform issues in Louisiana, you’ve probably heard about Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s use of legally questionable contingency-fee contracts to hire politically-connected trial lawyers to conduct lawsuits on behalf of the state.

Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) has been on the frontlines of this issue, exposing Caldwell’s practice of providing trial lawyers – often his campaign contributors – with lucrative contracts.  As LLAW Executive Director Melissa Landry pointed out in a WWL-TV investigation, “Rather than paying [the lawyers] a reasonable hourly fee based on their work, [Caldwell’s] promising them a large percentage of the state’s award.”

Clearly, this practice was hardly transparent or good for taxpayers. But this legislative session, Louisiana’s lawmakers took a step in the right direction. Last week, the Louisiana Legislature sent Governor Bobby Jindal a bill that would end AG Caldwell’s practice of hiring outside lawyers at huge hourly rates; the bill also prevents outside lawyers from collecting settlement-based legal fees without legislative approval.

This is a huge step in the right direction for Louisiana – it’s about time that the state took steps to implement transparency and let the sunshine in.  Congrats, Louisiana!