Letter to the Editor: Contingency Fees Help Protect Public Interest

Wall St. Journal
Saturday, July 7, 2007

In regard to your July 5 editorial ("Prosecution for Profit," regarding contingency fee agreements between attorneys general and private attorneys:
You suggest that plaintiffs' lawyers assisting the government should bill by the hour if they are truly interested in public justice. However, no state government could afford to pay private attorneys by the hour because these cases are complicated and extremely time consuming. Contingency fees actually keep taxpayers' costs down.
But the real problem with curtailing outside counsel from assisting attorneys general is that such regulation chills the states' ability to protect its people from powerful corporate interests.
Without the funding or the manpower to fight environmental, health and other large-scale dangers affecting its people, the playing field becomes impossibly tilted against the public interest. Contingency fees level this field and, to paraphrase the Supreme Court, allow the prosecutor to meet his obligation that justice is done.
Amy Widman
Policy Analyst
Center for Justice & Democracy
New York City

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