UPDATE: Judge says 'nothing improper' with MCI legal fees

By Patsy Brumfield/Daily Journal

JACKSON – The $14 million legal-fees agreement is valid, in the state’s $100-million windfall lawsuit against MCI, a state judge says.

Auditor Stacey Pickering sued in Hinds Circuit Court in 2007, seeking return of the attorneys’ fees to the state.

“This court finds that there is absolutely nothing improper or illegal about MCI’s payment of attorney’s fees” to the Langston Law Firm of Booneville, its then-leader Joey Langston, with Timothy Balducci and the firms Lundy & Davis, and Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz.

Pickering attacked the legality of the agreement, which was negotiated outside MCI’s 2005 settlement with the state.

Attorney Gen. Jim Hood had hired the Langston firm in 2004 to sue a tax-related claim against MCI/WorldCom.

In his ruling, Judge Winston Kidd also said it’s “undisputed” that the attorney general can retain special lawyers and enter into agreements with them. The Langston firm received no funds from the state, he added.

“The court finds that the State Auditor’s arguments have no merit,” he wrote in the Feb. 11 order, which just became public today.

The attorneys’ fees are “separate and apart” from what the state received, said Kidd in finding for the lawyers.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Pickering will appeal the decision.

For more, read Saturday’s NEMS Daily Journal.