State attorneys general enter into retention agreements with private attorneys with specialized knowledge and litigation experience in order to protect the health and financial interests of the state and adequately represent its citizens. Public-private attorney retention agreements have been challenged on the grounds that: (1) they violate ethical standards; (2) a special attorney’s right to compensation is coextensive with that of the Attorney General, and therefore, may only be compensated in the same manner as the Attorney General; (3) the retainer is an unlawful appropriation of state funds; (4) due process rights are violated by the state’s grant of police power to those with an incentive to use it for their financial gain; or (5) the relationships violate the demands of the neutrality doctrine placed on government officials. While the neutrality doctrine may raise valid concerns about the propriety of contingency fee arrangements, California’s ARCO decision adequately addresses and supports Washington’s government entity-private attorney retention analyses.
- government entity retention agreement with private counsel,
- neutrality doctrine,
- unlawful appropriation of state funds
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