State’s own defense lawyers could do the job for $30 to $65 an hour
By Miriam Raftery
March 30, 2015 (San Diego)—As we reported last week, the California Public Utilities Commission’s Chairman, Michael Picker, unilaterally authorized the PUC to pay a criminal defense firm to mount a defense for the PUC’s former chairman, Michael Peevey and others who are the targets of both state and federal investigations. Picker initially authored $49,000 and then bumped it up to $5.2 million – a 100-fold increase.
The private law firm hired, Sheppard Mullin, charges up to $882 an hour. But now a group that represents attorneys employed by the state says that’s a waste of taxpayer money, the Reader reports, noting that first ratepayers were “fleeced” and now the same is happening to ratepayers.
The California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment, or CASE, has written to the State Personnel Board to point out that “the State of California has an entire office of trained criminal defense attorneys at the Office of the State Public Defender.” That office has at least 27 lawyers capable of handling the case – and they charged just $30 to $65 an hour.
Moreover, the letter from CASE states, “The contracting of civil service work is prohibited.” In other words, if Peevey wants private counsel, he should pay for it himself – not stick taxpayers with the bill.
California’s Attorney General and federal investigators are probing allegations of collusion among Peevey and other CPUC representatives with the utilities they are supposed to regulate, including evidence of illicit communications revealed in e-mails obtained through public records searches.