JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s Attorney General Josh Hawley has been working with the legislature to bring out changes regarding the state’s legal expense fund (LEF), and while presenting his office’s $35.5 million operating budget, he also addressed concerns about the funding.
The legal expense fund has been the subject of much scrutiny in recent years, after it was reported that the state was paying out massive amounts in claims, including millions of dollars for Department of Corrections for harassment and discrimination settlements.
And after 100 days in office, Hawley instituted a policy to post monthly reports to increase transparency.
Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, chairing the House Budget Committee, asked for an update on the state’s legal expense fund (LEF), noting that the legislature had given some new restructuring for it in the previous year.
“Are you able, in your estimation, able to settle lawsuits the way you see fit under this structure?” he asked.
Hawley thanked the legislators for the system they had devised, saying it had “worked fantastically” from his point of view.
“I testified last year that we were facing very significant litigation exposure against the LEF,” he said. “We had over $20 million left to us by the previous administration on appeal… $20 million in judgments against the state on appeal that we thought would be hitting the LEF. And indeed, in this past calendar year, we have had to pay out $23 million from the LEF. Of those I think that only $150,000 are from cases where I was Attorney General, so we have quite a bit of overhang from previous years.”
He told the committee that the current potential claims laid out against the LEF total $415 million.
“So there are about $415 million in claims pending,” he said. “And of course, my job is to go to work every day and hold that down and get rid of those and save taxpayer money. That’s what we’re doing.”
To view the monthly reports, click here.
In addition to that, Hawley also answered questions about the lawsuit against him concerning his residence. He told the committee that the lawsuit was filed against him in his role as the attorney general and that as such, the state was the ones paying for his defense.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.