For Immediate Release: March 19, 2018
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Ofirah Yheskel, Ofirah.Yheskel@governor.virginia.gov

Governor Northam Vetoes Legislation Unnecessarily Limiting State Agencies’ Negotiating Power in Litigation

RICHMOND — Governor Ralph Northam today vetoed Senate Bill 926, which would impose arbitrary limits on contingency fees that may be charged by special counsel employed by a state agency or institution. The Governor’s veto statement is below:

March 19, 2018

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 926, which would impose arbitrary limits on contingency fees that maybe be charged by special counsel employed by a State agency or institution.

This Bill is particularly concerning with respect to The Office of the Attorney General.  The Office of the Attorney General has a statutory duty to defend and uphold the rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sometimes that duty necessitates initiating broad complex litigation against large multistate corporations that are alleged to have reached into the Commonwealth and harmed our citizens.  When the scope of litigation extends beyond the capacity of the Office of the Attorney General, the Office must retain the services of special counsel. In doing so, the Office must have the ability to hire the most talented and experienced legal counsel to represent the Commonwealth and protect our citizens.  To do that, the Office needs a full range of tools with which to negotiate to ensure that the Commonwealth’s legal interests are being protected.  

The use of a contingency fee arrangement to retain special counsel can be good for Virginia taxpayers. Contingency fees are only awarded upon the successful outcome of litigation. Therefore, the use of contingency fees benefits the Commonwealth and taxpayers at no cost to either.  An edict to limit the availability of this fee arrangement hinders the Commonwealth’s ability to successfully prosecute violations of state law.  

Senate Bill 926 would weaken the Commonwealth’s bargaining positions and restrict its potential recovery against those who harm Virginia residents. 

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

Ralph S. Northam

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