Contingency, as used by government entities, continues to grab U.S. law by the throat, on both the defense and plaintiff sides. Pending before the California Supreme Court is a review of that in the Santa Clara lead paint public nuisance case. Last week defendants submitted their replies to the plaintiff briefs.
Here the Inside the Beltway attorney opines, off-the-record:
"Unlike Rhode Island (and note that its expression is, practically speaking, dictum), the California Supreme Court has clear precedent which precludes municipalities hiring private attorneys on contingency (or, for that matter, rewarding local enforcement official monetarily based on the number of citations issues, etc.) where public policy and the duty of prosecutorial neutrality is going to be inherently skewed by the profit motive.
"The issue is whether it is inclined to now change California law, and accept the appellate court's reasoning that the government's claim of sufficient control over the contingency lawyer mitigates this inherent (pecuniary interest) conflict, especially in light of the need to employ 'expert outside counsel' to protect the public interest. (Expertise, in this context, translating into the ability to market your service to the government as a financial and political 'no lose' proposition, constitutional and rational public policy strictures aside.)"