Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Law
To pursue claims against Microsoft for alleged violations of the Mississippi antitrust and consumer-protection laws, Attorney General Jim Hood signed a contingency-fee contract with Hazzard Law, LLC, which, in turn, associated other law firms to assist with the litigation. The chancery court dismissed the antitrust claims, but allowed the consumer-protection claims to proceed. The parties eventually signed a settlement agreement that required Microsoft to provide up to $60 million in vouchers for Mississippi residents, and to pay the State of Mississippi $50 million in cash. However, the settlement agreement provided that $10 million of the cash money was to be distributed to the trust account of one of the outside lawyers in Houston, Texas. State Auditor Stacey Pickering wrote Hazzard, stating that payment of settlement funds directly to outside counsel violated Mississippi law. And because the same issue was pending in circuit court in another case, the auditor reserved all objections to the settlement until after the courts resolved the issue. Hazzard responded by filing a petition in chancery court, seeking approval of the attorney-fee payment. The auditor intervened in order to investigate and recover any public funds improperly withheld, misappropriated, or illegally spent. The auditor also filed a motion to have the $10 million held in trust disbursed to the State. The chancellor ruled in favor of Hazzard and ordered the settlement funds distributed directly to Hazzard and other retained counsel. The auditor appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General cross-appealed, claiming the Auditor's intervention was untimely. The chancery court held that the payment was proper. But because the law required that outside counsel retained by the Attorney General be paid from his contingent fund or from other funds the Legislature appropriated to his office, and because the Mississippi Constitution requires obligations and liabilities to the State to be paid "into the proper treasury," the Supreme Court reversed. View "Pickering v. Hood" on Justia Law