Archive for Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Attorney General Schmidt defends hiring Foulston Siefkin to represent state in Planned Parenthood lawsuit

July 19, 2011, 6:03 p.m. Updated July 20, 2011, 9:53 a.m.

Advertisement

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Tuesday denied he was granting political favors in hiring a law firm without going out for bid.

Democrats have accused Schmidt, a Republican, of showing favoritism in hiring Foulston Siefkin in a sole-source contract to represent the state in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood. Democrats have noted that a partner in Foulston Siefkin, Harvey Sorensen, was co-chairman of Schmidt’s 2010 campaign.

“It is the responsibility of the attorney general to provide for the defense of the state in lawsuits,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. “What I find disturbing is that the attorney general is awarding a state contract to political cronies on a no-bid basis,” Hensley said.

But Schmidt said he hired Foulston Siefkin because that was the best legal move in defending the state budget law that denies Planned Parenthood of $334,000 in federal family planning funds.

Schmidt said Planned Parenthood and other entities in the lawsuit are represented by nationally and internationally known law firms.

“Clearly, the plaintiffs in that case brought in the big guns,” he said.

Schmidt said his civil litigation division has 10 attorneys handling more than 600 case files with 300 of those in litigation. Foulston Siefkin, he said, is the largest law firm in Kansas with approximately 90 lawyers. Also, Schmidt said, he had to act quickly because the judge in the case set an initial hearing just a week after the law took effect.

Of the Democrats’ charge, Schmidt said there are attorneys with Foulston Siefkin who supported him and some who supported his Democratic opponent, former Attorney General Steve Six.

His choice of Foulston Siefkin was in the best interest of the state officials who were sued, he said.

He said the same considerations went into hiring Stephen McAllister as outside counsel in lawsuits filed against the state’s new abortion clinic regulations. That was also a no-bid contract.

Under the Foulston Siefkin contract, the rates for four attorneys are $300 per hour, while three other attorneys will earn from $160 per hour to $260 per hour. A paralegal will be paid $115 per hour.

Under the contract with McAllister, he will receive $250 per hour, while three other attorneys will receive from $175 per hour to $225 per hour. A paralegal will make $75 per hour.

Both contracts say the costs to the state shall not exceed $100,000, but those terms can be changed.

The Kansas Democratic Party also blasted Schmidt for Deputy Attorney General Jeff Chanay being involved in awarding the sole-source contracts.

In the 1990s, Chanay had been a partner in Entz & Chanay, which received a multimillion dollar no-bid contract from then-Attorney General Carla Stovall to represent the state in the tobacco settlement.

The hiring of the firm — where Stovall had once worked — prompted passage by the Legislature of tighter bid restrictions.

“It’s troubling to see A.G. Schmidt putting someone that cost the state millions of dollars in charge of awarding ‘no bid’ contracts for outside counsel,” said Kenny Johnston, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party.

But Schmidt said the Democratic Party’s criticism of Chanay was off base.

“He’s a rock-solid lawyer. The state is getting years of seasoned experience in civil litigation on a state salary,” he said of Chanay.

Comments

4accountability 3 years, 9 months ago

The primary purpose of the AG's office is to defend the state in cases just like this one. It is sad the AG did not retain in-house talent to do the job of his office. Worse yet that he believes the current staff he did choose are not able to handle the job. Maybe the plan all along was to throw some money back at those who paid to get him elected. When you can't trust to top law enforcement official in the state to do what is right it is pretty scary. Mr. Schmidt needs to be a one term AG and his plans to run for Governor or Washington office need to be squelched. Anyone who saw him in action as a Senator could tell it was about him instead of what was good for Kansans.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 9 months ago

So the state is getting a bargain in Chanay in that it has hired someone eminently qualified to hire other attorneys.

Wouldn't a better bargain be a lawyer who could handle defending a budget proviso?

PP has hired attorneys... um, so what? Kansans hired an Attorney General and expect him to do the job.

Instead, all we're getting are excuses about how Planned Parenthood is paying big lawyers so taxpayers have to pay big lawyers, too. Perhaps if Planned Parenthood would jump off a bridge our Attorney General would follow suit...

ksriver2010 3 years, 9 months ago

At those rates with that number of attorneys (7) it would take very little time (less than 100 hours) to eat up that $100K allocated amount. With the seven attorneys and one paralegal, each hour would equal about $2,000, assuming that they needed all seven attorneys. And this will not be a small case.

overthemoon 3 years, 9 months ago

Even figuring it on an average of the lower rates and less than full time for the partner rates (they don't work full time on cases, I should think) they'd still burn thru that 100k in 150 hours or three and a half weeks. It'll end up costing closer to a million I'd bet.

overthemoon 3 years, 9 months ago

Even figuring it on an average of the lower rates and less than full time for the partner rates (they don't work full time on cases, I should think) they'd still burn thru that 100k in 150 hours or three and a half weeks. It'll end up costing closer to a million I'd bet.

truckfan 3 years, 9 months ago

Foulston Siefkin only has 80-some-odd lawyers. i assume the 700 is a reference to 70.

Joe Hyde 3 years, 9 months ago

This is a situation where the state government of Kansas committed two assaults, by financially sucker-punching Planned Parenthood and threatening the closure of three medical clinics that perform legal abortions. The state would not be facing court trials if these assaults had not been ordered.

But they were ordered by Gov. Brownback and the assaults were carried through. Apparently no one associated with these assaults considered the possibility that the victims would go to court to defend themselves.

Having been elected to their high offices after publicly representing the ultra-conservative political vote, it is utter cowardice for Kansas Attorney General Schmidt to now avoid being the lead courtroom lawyer handling the high profile Planned Parenthood case. It also is utter cowardice for Deputy Attorney General Chanay to avoid being the state's lead courtroom lawyer in the other case, the one concerning new medical regulations for abortion clinics.

Did the conservative voters in Kansas who put these gentlemen in office expect them to pass off their jobs to high-dollar no-bid contracted law firms then scurry into cover at the first sign of resistance to the state's frontal assault on women's reproductive rights?

In these two upcoming court cases, are the Kansas Attorney General and his Deputy both incompetent to argue the state's aggressive actions during an actual courtroom trial? I wouldn't know, but I have to wonder why they're now using taxpayers money to avoid getting their own hands dirty. These two men draw high-paying state salaries, and it was their choice of politics that helped provoke these two trials. Now they duck out, disengaging themselves from the battle.

I doubt either one really believes what they claim to believe in, else they'd eagerly enter the courtroom leading from the front, win or lose.

Jacks_Smirking_Revenge 3 years, 9 months ago

I would say that Schmidt's trial experience is less than adequate to the job. He is a lawyer in name only and a full time politician. While I doubt that he would do anything overtly illegal, he knows who his masters are and who is footing the bill. This is just an easy way for them to pay homage to those who helped put them in office.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 9 months ago

Of course, it is cronyism. What did the clueless voters of Kansas expect when they went with this Republican Terrorist and tossed out Judge Six?

leonardpike 3 years, 9 months ago

We all know that most of the "300" cases in litigation are prisoner rights cases that get dismissed with a few motions and about 2 hours of work. If each attorney there only has a litigation case load of 30 cases, very of which will actually go to trial, the office can certainly handle one more case and spend some serious time on the case if needed.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 9 months ago

So this story has been edited from the original comment, where Schmidt said the private firm had 700 lawyers.

The story now says the private firm has 90 lawyers.

Which one did Schmidt say? A fact statement attributed to the Attorney General of Kansas has been edited without comment from the Journal World?

Highly questionable.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.