Last Update: January 27, 1998
From US govt. Web

  1. Under the proposed settlement between the tobacco industry and the various State Attorneys General, the attorneys involved in negotiating the settlement are entitled to reasonable fees.  Under the proposed settlement, the tobacco companies would pay $368.5 billion to be allocated among various public health programs.  But as much as $55 billion more could be taken away from public health programs for attorneys' fees.  While the average annual gross receipts for the 100 top-grossing law firms in America last year was $18 million, a 30% contingency fee would yield an average of approximately $925 million per law firm involved in the litigation pending prior to the settlement.

  2. In Florida, the private lawyers hired by the state sought $2.8 billion in legal fees--equivalent to 25% of the state's $11.3 billion settlement.  On November 12, 1997, Florida Circuit Court Judge Harold J. Cohen threw out the request, calling it "unconscionable and clearly excessive" and even "patently ridiculous."  The $2.8 billion fee, he writes in his decision, is so excessive that it "shocks the conscience of the court" and "is per se unreasonable."  Judge Cohen notes that the $2.8 billion fee works out to $233 million for each of the twelve private lawyers hired by the state.  Presuming that each of these attorneys worked around the clock for 42 months (the duration of the litigation), without breaks for eating, sleeping, weekends or holidays, Judge Cohen further calculates that each lawyer will receive an hourly rate of  $7,716.  Allowing realistic breaks, the Judge wrote, the hourly fee will likely be at least double--or $15,432 per hour.

  3. In Texas, the five private lawyers hired by the state will be getting $2.3 billion in legal fees--15% of the $15.3 billion settlement approved by a U.S. District Court judge on January 22, 1998.  Even more troubling, as part of the settlement, state Attorney General Dan Morales agreed to put Texas taxpayers on the hook to guarantee the lawyers their 15%--regardless of whether Congress approves a national settlement.  On January 27, 1998 Texas Governor George Bush called the fees "excessive and outrageous", noting that without a national settlement, "[t]he $2.3 billion the state has to pay the attorneys is guaranteed. But there is no guarantee about where that money is coming from."

  4. (1/27/98)

This is a page in the section entitled Lawyers Make Billions at Expense of Sick and Dying Smokers in the Web site entitled Legal Reform Through Transforming the Discipline of Law into a Science.