Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker announced today the appointment of a multi-agency committee to review proposals submitted by private law firms interested in assisting the state with its pending tobacco litigation. Citing concern with huge attorneys' fees claims asserted in recent tobacco litigation settlements in Florida and Texas, Baker's primary goal is to retain quality legal representation at a cost reasonably related to the work actually performed. "We will be looking for firms who are mindful of the fact that, if chosen, they will be doing a public service on behalf of the citizens of this state," said Baker. "While we recognize the complex nature of this litigation, and that lawyers should be fairly compensated for their expertise, our focus should always be on protecting the interests of Georgia's taxpayers."

The committee will consist of attorneys from the Law Department, as well as representatives of the Department of Medical Assistance, the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Administrative Services and the Office of Planning and Budget. According to Baker, the committee will develop specific criteria for the selection of outside counsel and will request written proposals from firms interested in working on the litigation.

The committee will then review those proposals and make a recommendation to the Attorney General, who is expected to appoint outside counsel sometime in late March. "When those appointments are made," Baker says, "we want to be completely satisfied that the selection process was open and fair, and that we have retained the best lawyers at the best rates possible."