AP – Supreme Court to look at legal fees issues on June 8

The lawyers’ fees issue is before the Supreme Court on June 8.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering is attacking a state law that allows the attorney general to hire lawyers from outside his office to handle legal cases.

A judge last year upheld $14 million in fees paid to two attorneys for handling a state lawsuit against telecommunications giant MCI.

Pickering contends the money should have gone to the state with the Legislature then appropriating money to pay the lawyers.

Joey Langston and Timothy Balducci in 2005 negotiated the legal fees separate from a settlement with MCI in a lawsuit they filed on behalf of the state. They were later disbarred after pleading guilty in an unrelated judicial bribery investigation.

The judge said state law allows the attorney general to hire outside lawyers. He said the lawyers received no funds from the state and the legal fees are “separate and apart” from what the state received in the MCI settlement.

The political feud over using private attorneys to represent the state in high-profile cases is nothing new. During the 1990s, then-Attorney General Mike Moore used several private attorneys, including his law school friend Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, to sue tobacco companies to recover the costs of treating sick smokers.