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December 16, 2013

Gov. Walker Signs Nation’s Strongest Outside Counsel Sunshine Law

by Lisa A. Rickard, President, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

On Friday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting Act (AB 27), which promotes transparency and limits contingency fees when the state hires outside private plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Governor Walker helped Wisconsin take a significant step to rein in the troublesome practice of awarding contingency fee contracts to outside plaintiffs’ lawyers. Such schemes enrich lawyers at the expense of taxpayers and raise concerns about ‘pay-to-play,’ conflicts of interest, the use of a public entity for personal gain, and fairness in prosecutions.

With the signing of this law, Wisconsin joins a growing group of states including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, and Mississippi that have taken action to limit outside contingency fee counsel arrangements by attorneys general.

Wisconsin’s law is the nation’s strongest outside counsel sunshine measure to date. In particular, it includes a prohibition on the use of civil penalties or fines to calculate contingency fee awards and a strong cap on the total amount of money that outside lawyers can collect. Other states should follow Wisconsin’s lead and adopt equally strong laws.

Governor Walker, Representative Mike Kuglitsch, and Senator Glenn Grothman should be commended for their leadership on this issue. We also applaud the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce for their steadfast support and work. In addition, we thank Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen for his thoughtful input throughout the process of developing this law.

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