- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas unveiled policy changes Monday from his three-month review of the office’s practice of hiring private lawyers to file its lawsuits.

In an effort to make the process more transparent, the office now will seek bids from law firms and choose a senior staff member to oversee the filings, Balderas said. The firms do the necessary legwork and then get a percentage of any money won in court cases.

Balderas also promised to make all documents from the bidding process available to the public and require the firms to follow the state’s open record laws.

The move comes after a New York Times story in December showed how more attorneys general were hiring private law firms to file lawsuits. The story, which featured former New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, reported that private lawyers search public records for potential cases and then approach states’ top law enforcement officers.

Some of the lawyers have donated to the campaigns of attorneys general, the newspaper reported.

When asked about the practice in January after taking office, Balderas said he would examine whether it compromises the integrity of the office and will decide if his office should “reform any process” with the private firms.

“As attorney general, I am committed to operating an open and transparent office that serves the best interest of New Mexicans,” Balderas said in a statement to The Associated Press. “This office will adhere strictly to an improved process regarding the use of outside counsel to ensure accountability and transparency.”

Balderas said he was confident that pending cases handled by outside law firms merit moving forward.


Follow Russell Contreras at https://twitter.com/russcontreras .

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