Attorney General Patrick Morrisey plans to roll out a new competitive bidding process next month, to be used when his office must hire outside lawyers.
Morrisey has touted this plan since taking office in January, saying it will save money while ensuring the state receives quality legal service. Morrisey has repeatedly criticized his predecessor’s use of outside counsel, suggesting that former Attorney General Darrell McGraw hired friends and campaign contributors to work for the office.
Morrisey’s office released a statement Thursday morning praising new policy:
“This policy helps to bring much-needed order and transparency to an important process,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “While I believe the team of talented lawyers who already work in the Attorney General’s Office will be able to handle most issues that arise, there are cases in which the use of outside counsel may be required. In those instances, we will use a competitive bidding process to make sure we get high-quality services at reasonable prices.”
The policy requires Morrisey to express, in writing, the reason he needs to hire outside counsel. Lawyers applying for the work must then meet eight criteria, like whether the attorney has the necessary skill and expertise required to handle the legal matters and whether the law firm in question has enough staff to handle the litigation.
The rating system also favors attorneys who have received awards or other recognitions for their legal services, and how much their services would cost the Attorney General’s Office.
Click here to review the six-page policy in its entirety.
Following Morrisey’s announcement Thursday morning, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse released a statement calling the new policy a “sea change” for the Office of the Attorney General.
WV CALA was a longtime opponent of McGraw, and supported Morrisey’s campaign last year. Here’s an excerpt from the group’s statement:
“This is a night-and-day contrast to the previous attorney general, Darrell McGraw, who abused the public trust by making backroom deals where he would appoint his big campaign contributors to file highly lucrative lawsuits on behalf of the state, said WV CALA Executive Director Greg Thomas.“Moreover,” Thomas added, “Some state lawsuit settlement monies were improperly channeled to McGraw’s office fund. Many outside observers would agree that McGraw appeared to use his official office as if it were a taxpayer-funded, full-time political campaign office, with around-the-clock, state-funded advertising to prominently promote his name under the guise of consumer awareness.”
The policy will go into effect April 15. A 45-day public comment period on the policy also will begin that day. Morrisey said he plans to implement his finalized policy July 16 after reviewing those comments.
All comments must be received by May 30, 2013. Citizens can submit comments sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailing a letter to this address:
West Virginia Attorney General’s Office
Attn: Outside Counsel Policy
West Virginia State Capitol
Building 1, Room 26-E
Charleston, WV 25305