Statement of State Auditor Stacey Pickering addressing ruling on attorneys fees in Microsoft litigation

“The lower courts that have addressed this ongoing dispute have yet to address or acknowledge the existence of Mississippi Supreme Court precedent and former Attorney General Mike Moore’s testimony under oath that special assistants are to be paid in contingency fee cases from funds appropriated from the legislature according to the statute on the subject. Attorney General Hood’s court actions and public statements only continue to perpetuate Mississippi’s national “pay-to-play” reputation when it comes to contingency fee litigation. It’s undeniable that high-paying political supporters and close personal friends have been awarded the opportunity to sit at the settlement table formerly reserved for taxpayers. Unfortunately, several of those large campaign contributors, including two Special Assistant Attorneys General, now sit in federal prison having pleaded guilty to judicial bribery. For too long, political contributors have been allowed to bargain on behalf of themselves and their law firms for direct receipt of taxpayer settlement funds from opposing parties without oversight from the legislature.

The State Auditor believes the law is clear. It is in the best interest of the taxpayers of this state to have the Mississippi Supreme Court ultimately decide this issue as it relates to contingency fees paid to outside private attorneys in taxpayer lawsuits not handled by the attorneys in Jim Hood’s office. Our Constitution gives the Mississippi Supreme Court final authority regarding the interpretation of statutes under Mississippi law.

The Microsoft settlement dispute involves the same issue as in Langston/MCI. Attorney General Hood had already voluntarily intervened in the Langston matter so that this issue could be resolved fully and finally. Instead of waiting on resolution of the Langston/MCI matter by the Mississippi Supreme Court, the special assistant attorney generals under Attorney General Hood’s control in the Microsoft matter requested a disbursement of fees in violation of the statute raised by the State Auditor. This forced the State Auditor to again engage outside counsel to represent the interests of the State Auditor. As stated before, the Mississippi Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of Mississippi statutes, not the Attorney General as he presumes in all of his public statements. In reality, all of his public statements and calls for the State Auditor to drop this matter only reveal his desire to avoid review by the Mississippi Supreme Court.”