Florida Spends $237 Million On Private Lawyers

By Nethani Palmani | Mar 17, 2017 11:46 AM EDT

More than $250 million have been spent on private lawyers by Gov. Rick Scott and agencies under his control including the Florida Legislature and Cabinet officials. Public records show that the spending on outside lawyering was initiated since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011.

Under the Florida Republican leadership, more than $100 million were paid to private lawyers by state agencies, according to The Tribune. This includes an expensive water rights struggle with Georgia that has been waged for nearly 20 years but increased in cost after Scott pushed to bring the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The total amount also includes money billed by private lawyers that advance and defend the agendas of Legislature and the governor. The Department of State, for instance, paid more than $200,000 to defend a plan that Scott initiated to remove non-U.S. citizens from the voting rolls, which was eventually put to stop after being challenged by voting rights groups.

Despite the halt, the Scott administration successfully defended a state law that requires public employees to contribute 3 percent of their pay to the state pension fund. But the state spent nearly $533,000 with an Atlanta firm consisting private lawyers on the litigation.

In fact, some of the legal expenses of agencies are for routine work that is assigned to private lawyers. The Florida Department of Citrus, for instance, uses a private firm as general counsel while the Department of Education uses private lawyers to assist in cases of misconduct by teachers, according to Orlando Sentinel.

From the total amount, a fraction of $16 million were paid to opposing lawyers after losing legal battles over gay marriage, voting rights, drug testing and other policies that has deemed controversial. Nearly $20 million were spent on defending budgets that apparently "shortchange" public schools and for legislative and congressional districts drawn by the Republicans. Meanwhile, about $111 million were spent through the risk management division of Florida that includes lawsuit over auto accidents, employment disputes and worker's compensation claims.

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