Two cases were decided by the Supreme Court today that vindicated auditor Pickering’s view of attorney general contracts with outside counsel: Regardless of what fictions are used for payment, the funds coming out of the settlement are state funds and must be appropriated by the legislature before counsel can be paid them.
One of the two cases involves Joey Langston, who was paid $14 million in attorneys fees out of the settlement of a tax claim in the WorldCom tax settlement. Out of the proceeds, the state got $100 million and the Children’s Justice Center of Mississippi got $4.2 million.
In the 5-vote majority opinion, Justice Dickinson goes to great pains to say he is not passing on the propriety of Langston’s $14M fee (as does Justice Pierce in a concurrence joined by the others in the majority), but he makes clear that, to get paid, Langston is going to have to get the fee approved by the Mississippi legislature.
Somewhere in the opinion, it is noted that the fee has been disbursed, some kept by Langston, some to another law firm, and a whole lot to the IRS.
There’s a 3-vote dissent by King (joined by Justice Kitchens and Justice Chandler); Justice Carlson sat it out.
The other case involved the Microsoft fee, and essentially follows the logic in the WorldCom/Langston case.