BATON ROUGE – As Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell continues to go after pharmaceutical companies for alleged consumer fraud, he also is continuing a practice of bringing in high profile attorneys, some of whom are campaign contributors, to do legal work on behalf of the state.
Caldwell has long been under fire for hiring outside private law firms who stand to make millions of dollars from civil cases brought on behalf of the state by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. In fact, Louisiana legislators found some of the payouts to contractors so egregious that they passed a bill last year limiting the maximum amount private attorneys representing the state can receive.
However, Caldwell’s is still relying on private attorneys to do the state’s work, including those with whom he has political connections. That pattern was again seen earlier this year in a case previously filed by Caldwell against pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca that was removed to federal court. In that case, the AG’s office accuses AstraZeneca of violating anti-trust laws by delaying the introduction of a generic version of Toprol-XL, a drug that treats chest pain and high blood pressure. The lawsuit closely resembles several others that Caldwell’s office has brought against drug companies in the past.
In continuing his preference for hiring outside help, Caldwell appointed nine private law firms along with 17 private attorneys working for those firms to work on behalf of the state.
Caldwell’s spokesman Aaron Sadler defended his employer’s actions, saying that the private attorneys were appointed by the AG’s office prior to the new law going into effect.
“The contract for this litigation was executed prior to changes in the law regarding payment of outside counsel for Louisiana,” he said.
Sadler also stressed the complexity and size of the case as necessitating the need for outside help.
“Because of the enormity of the project, the state has retained the services of multiple law firms, some of whom have worked with the state previously and have a proven track record of success, some of whom are experts in this particular field of antitrust litigation and all of whom are excellent and experienced trial attorneys,” he said.
Of the outside counsel Caldwell has brought in for the AstraZeneca case, Usry, Weeks & Mathews of New Orleans and Shows, Cali & Walsh of Baton Rouge have been prolific campaign contributors to Caldwell. The Usry law firm has donated $115,000 to Caldwell’s election campaigns while the Shows law firm has provided him with $15,000. Those firms have benefited greatly from Caldwell through numerous no-bid contracts.
For example, in the state’s case against BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Usry has racked up over $7 million in legal fees while Shows has been paid around $700,000.
Those firms in particular have deep political connections to Caldwell. T. Allen Usry, of Usry, Weeks & Mathews, has served as Caldwell’s campaign treasurer and E. Wade Shows, of Shows, Cali & Walsh, previously served as Caldwell’s campaign manager.
Upon further scrutiny, four of the 17 attorneys appointed to the case by Caldwell have directly provided campaign contributions to Caldwell election efforts. Campaign finance records on www.followthemoney.org show Caldwell received $10,000 in campaign finances from Usry; $6,000 in donations from Robert L. Salim, of Natchitoches-based Salim-Beasley, $5,000 from James P. Ryan, of Opelousas-based Morrow, Ryan & Bassett and $200 from Alejandro Perkins of Baton Rouge-based Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice.
Notably, Caldwell also appointed Kanner and Whiteley to the AstraZeneca case. Although Kanner and Whiteley are not known to be campaign contributors to Caldwell they have secured the contracts with the Attorney General’s Office to represent the state and notably have benefited the most of any firm hired to handle the Deepwater Horizon matter having been paid over $12.1 million thus far.
The other private law firms and attorneys who have been named in court documents to work on behalf of the state are Barrett Beasley, of Salim-Beasley, John Alden Meade, of New Orleans-based Meade Law LLC; Joseph F. Rice, Michael M. Buchman, John A. Ioannou and Alex R. Straus, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Motley Rice; Pat Morrow of Opelousas-based Morrow Morrow Ryan & Bassett; Allan Kanner, Conlee S. Whiteley and John R. Davis, of Kanner and Whiteley, and Michael G. Bagneris and Tonya Rhodes Jupiter, of New Orleans-based Davillier Law Group.