Even though constitutional challenges usually cost around a million bucks, the HCR challenge is going to be a bargain for everyone. Luckily for the twenty states involved, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum volunteered to do most of the work, and he got a sweetheart deal on outside counsel:
McCollum has assigned seven people within his office to handle the work, and hired the Washington, D.C., law firm Baker and Hostetler to represent the states. McCollum, who is running for governor in Florida, lobbied for the firm as recently as 2006.
Its lawyers, David Rivkin and Lee Casey, have lowered their hourly fee to keep costs under $50,000. Rivkin normally is paid $900 an hour, said Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for McCollum.
It’s touching to see a politician and two lawyers set aside crass personal interest to defend the Constitution.
Baker is a Cleveland based firm and this gives me yet another reason not to like them.
Yeah. All that sacrifice is awe-inspiring.
I’ll bet that they work hard, too. [Not like the rest of us poor shlubs.]
I wish I could say this will harm McCollum’s political fortunes here in Florida, but I’m afraid the opposite is the case.
So a $900 / hr law firm is taking a 99% haircut to fight against a 10% tanning tax and subsidized health care for people who don’t make $50k per year.
What a swell bunch of suckers.
It has got to be a pretty bad case of crony capitalism when lobbyists are effectively staffing AG offices for free. I don’t even think the ethical rules even imagine such a practice, much less discourage it..
“Regardless of the arrangement between Florida and their law firm, regardless of what it actually costs to get this done, the state of Alaska will not spend more than $5,000 on outside counsel,” McAllister said in an e-mail.
The issue was never what states were going to spend on “outside counsel”. They’ve ducked the real issue, which was always resources the state AG’s were going to devote to this.
Another day, another lie.
McCollum has assigned seven people within his office to handle the work
That’s the issue. That’s what the Virginia Legislature wants an accounting on. Not “outside counsel”.
Christ. Can reporters start using their heads a little?
On the bright side, I suppose this will be time these shysters won’t be devoting to their regular work, such as railroading whistleblowers or helping health insurers and land development companies evade the law.
How does one file an FEC complaint?
@kay: We’re lucky that this is even reported. This McClatchy story is the only one I could find that talked about this little sweetheart deal.
The reporter let him get away with this:
Later, he goes on to add “on outside counsel”.
I know, but come on. The headline and the first quote? It’s deceptive. It’s not going to “cost” 5,000. I mean, that’s ridiculous on its face. A single uncomplicated criminal appeal can cost 5,000.
How many lawyers are in that AG office? He’s devoted SEVEN to this? What’s that going to cost?
@kay: David Rivkin looks like a pervert. I don’t mean to sound whacko but there’s mugshots you see of serial killers and child molesters and they just have a certain look about them. That’s the way Rivkin looks like to me. Also too, he sounds like Bradley Schlozzman. Also also too, Bill McCollum is yet another Repub who I would be willing to bet had the crap beaten out of him at school everyday. Lunch money ripped off too.
These folks are assholes, just like their supporters. They continue to attack the guy with Parkinson’s, Dr. Letcher, who had the gall to sit in front of them with a sign.
Good lord. Too early in the morning for this bullshit. Need moar coffee.
If they somehow manage to get this to our parody of a Supreme Ct. maybe their dreams will be realized.
I want them to start thinking when they’re talking to these people. I feel as if Republicans regularly use reporters to distribute the lie ‘o the day. The lie of the day is that this will cost 5,000, to taxpayers. It’s a round number and it’s easy to remember and they’ll repeat it 50,000 times and it’s flat-out ridiculous. This reporter wouldn’t accept that number from his own lawyer. “I’m taking your case to the Supreme Court. I estimate it will cost 5,000”.
Sorry for the rant.
They make $900 an hour? $900?
No wonder John McCain was babbling about those $50/hour jobs picking lettuce. They have no idea that many people are lucky to get a $9/hour job with no benefits.
French Revolution, anyone?
@mai naem: I don’t know if I would use the word pervert, but agree there is something off about him. It’s not the hair, or the glasses, it’s the flat, hate filled expression that never leaves his face. You know how there are some dogs you just know you don’t want to get near? They don’t growl or lip curl, they just stare at you. He always has that look.
I know it sounds silly but I find it absurd that anyone who has studied constitutional law– as we must assume these lawyers did to get through law school– would take on this case. Apparently they aren’t at all concerned that it will damage their reputation by taking up totally bogus, pointless cases on behalf of halfwits.
@kay: “Can reporters start using their heads a little?” They are well paid precisely not to notice such things.
@zoe kentucky: Rivkin doesn’t care. His reputation is secure among those he cares about (hint: ot-nay espectable-ray egal-lay olars-schay).
ETA: I worked closely with Baker-Hostetler for over a year in Columbus. There are some great people and great lawyers there.
Wait, let me get this straight, we’re talking about right-wing lawyers and reputation, right? Can we even mention those things in the same sentence and not tear a hole in the time-space continuum (c.f., John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, the entire alumni and faculty of Regent Law School, etc.)?
Maybe it’s a crack deal – first round is pro bono – appeals are going to cost you.
@zoe kentucky: These lawyers are not representing the halfwits. The halfwits are ably and appropriately represented by the AGs. The clients for these high priced lawyers are the health insurance companies, lobbyists for which put the AGs up to these stupid lawsuits in the first place.
This is a new wrinkle in the process of regulatory capture, and it bears watching.
50k is chump change for a firm of that size, so this is basically their costs. not exactly the same as pro bono but pretty close. so the criticism here is pretty off-base as to the firm. the argument about the respective AG internal expenditures is on a better footing but it isn’t clear from that piece how much time they are spending on it.
and i hope the US doesn’t get to the point where the ability to file lawsuits of dubious merit goes away because others don’t like the politics. given that the executive seems hell-bent on destroying what few personal civil liberties remain i’d just as soon see this ability stick around even if it is sometimes used perniciously, as here.
@sparky: I think I was a bit unclear in my criticism of Baker Hostetler – they are certainly free to pursue cases pro bono, including filing amicus briefs on cases like this.
But here they are not acting in such a capacity: they are acting as paid staff to Attorneys General and Special Attorneys General. While I find it just a bit squirrely for AG offices or SAGs to hire and pay outside counsel, there is something very disturbing about their hiring outside counsel to work for free, when the same firm also works for members of the health care industry (as in here), and works as a lobbyist on behalf of the health care industry, among others.
Now an AG or an SAG, even though they pursue a specific cause, still have an ethical obligation to the public as a whole – the public is their client. But for these Baker Hostetler lawyers, who is their client? Who is paying their fees? It sure is not the public, but they are working on behalf of the public — this is a dual representation problem that can only be addressed by giving all sorts of written notice to and getting the approval of all the various clients involved. Instead we have a very murky situation that is rife with the possibility of corruption and other ethical abuses.
Given that they’ve vowed to fight to the death to repeal HCR. Given that the SCOTUS is leaning more conservative these days – that Mayan calendar “End of Days” thing is looking like a better deal all the time.
We got that beat
Here in VA, after criticism for spending state money on his frivolous lawsuit to overturn Obamacare, our AG (Ken Cuccinelli. I mention his name because I am confident that you will be hearing more of it in the future.) triumphantly announced that he was able to bring it in for only $150. He had to backtrack a bit and raise that figure to $350, as it seems the filing fee alone was $350. And yes, there were the caveats others have mentioned, that work done by employees of the AG’s office didn’t count, (I guess because if they hadn’t been working on this filing, they would have just been sitting around surfing porn sites like all government employee parasites who suck the taxpayer’s blood.) and the thing was written without paid outside counsel.
Now, our lawsuit is a bit different from boring old McCollum’s. It’s my understanding that all those also-ran states are just suing on the stodgy grounds that the mandate is unconstitutional, that the Congress exceeded its authority under Art I, sec 8. Boring!
Here in VA, our AG got his fellow wingnuts in the General Assembly to first pass a law, passed all of 12 days before Obamacare passed, nullifying the individual mandate. So our lawsuit includes a state interposition claim. Yoohoo! And nyah-nyah to all you boring states who refuse to stand at the cutting edge, and in the grand tradition of John C. Calhoun.
It’s all well and good for McCollum and his boring, conventional lawsuit to get help from a bunch of white-shoe lobbyist lawyers, as their unpaid outside counsel. Here in VA, Cuccinelli did that one hell of a lot better by getting the world’s top experts in Constitution in Exile studies, from the world’s leading Bible College Law Schools, to be the unpaid outside counsel.
Cuccinelli’s website has taken down the anti-Obamacare filing, so I can’t link to it. Overall, it’s useful mainly as an example fo what sort of legal reasoning $350 will get you. But what catches your eye as something that goes beyond the McCollum level of merely conventional wingnuttery, is this odd quotation from a dictum of Samuel Chase in the 1798 Calder v Bull. It outlines a theory of what can only be called judicial nullification, in that it proposes that justices throw out statutes that they feel violate the unwritten social compact, with no reference to whether they conflict with provisions of “express compacts”, written sources of law like the Consitution, other statutes, etc.
Look, our AG is way wingnuttier than McCollum et al. He wants the SC to throw out Obamacare even if it does not conflict with the Constitution. Take that, stare decisis!
It gets worse.
Lest you think that this idea of judicial nullification of great masses of Constitutional jurisprudence is a delusion shared only by Cuccinelli and a few scattered and powerless Bible College Law School experts, let me direct you to the dissent of an SC justice who, unlike Samuel Chase, is still very much on the bench, Clarence Thomas on Kelo v City of New London (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/pdf/04-108P.ZD1). The dissent bears reading in full, because we discover therein that this 1/9 of the SC, the folks who decide what the law is in this country, not only believes that the Constitution is in exile, but that it has taken refuge in his basement. And yes, Thomas quotes the same Samuel Chase passage about judicial nullification.
Okay, so Cuccinelli put a bit of Thomas-bait in his filing. Big deal! It would take five justices, not just one, to return us to those heady days of 1798, with state interposition in the air, right? Except that there are three other original intentionalist, Federal Society, goons in the SC right there next to Thomas. We’re just a Justice Kennedy bad-male-menopause-day away from the SC deciding that it needs to follow the original intention of the Founders, as expressed by Madison’s support of interposition in 1798, and refuse to hear the case and declare either Obamacare or the VA nullifying statute unconstitutional. Let the states and the US duke it out, like the Founders intended!
Unfortunately, they ARE using their heads.
And no, you DON’T wanna know how…
There’s a really important distinction, though, between the “original intent” crowd and the “natural law” crowd, though, isn’t there?
Justice Thomas is a “natural law” proponent.
He believes that not only has he discerned the original intent of the Founders, but that the Founders discerned the original intent of God.
Thomas is basically citing God.
I spend an certain amount of time with these conservative wackadoodles. We’ve been around and around on this.
Tea Partiers are Natural Law followers too, although they don’t know it yet, because Glenn Beck didn’t tell them where he got his theory.
Rivkin is a scumbag, but a pretty good lawyer. He’s one of the slicker torture apologists out there. (I wrote a looong post dissecting his technique last year.)
Rivkin is an excellent lawyer and I think to underestimate him on this suit–now at 20 states–would be a major miscalculation ….