Does LSP’s recent signing of $1,000/hour legal contract ($2 million cap annually with two renewals) provide direct indication that US Department of Justice will file Federal suit to place LSP under Consent Decree?

An attendee holds up a photo at DOJ / U. S. Attorneys’ town hall meeting of May 16, 2023 on the campus of Southern University to illustrate Louisiana law enforcement’s alleged treatment of her son.

In today’s Sound Off Louisiana feature, Robert Burns provides his take on recent revelations that LSP has entered into a $1,000/hour contract to defend against the U.S. Department of Justice’s pattern and practices investigation of the agency:

June 1, 2024:  Burns provides his take on LSP’s $1,000/hour ($2 million cap each year for up to three years) to defend against DOJ’s pattern and practice investigation into the agency.  Note:  In the above video, Burns inaccurately stated that the LENS/NOLA lawsuit was filed in late March when, it reality, it was filed on April 29, 2024.  We regret the error.


Click here for The Lens/NOLA feature, and click here for our May 23, 2023 feature of the DOJ and U. S. Attorney’s presentation at Southern University on May 16, 2023 (the link for the DOJ presentation is at the bottom, or feel free to directly see it by clicking here).

Here are a few highlights from that Lens/NOLA feature of Friday, May 31, 2024:

A law firm in Washington, D.C. is collecting $1,000 an hour to help shield the Louisiana State Police from a federal civil-rights investigation.

The white-shoe firm, WilmerHale, was given the contract to defend LSP from a sweeping investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice spurred by evidence of racial discrimination and use of excessive force.

The firm’s initial contract was for three months, starting in November and expiring on January 31, 2024. WilmerHale’s rate was set at an eye-popping $750 per hour, capped at a total of $300,000.

For the firm’s second, current contract, obtained by The Lens this week, LSP directly contracted with WilmerHale – signing the agreement in April, but backdating the start of the contract to February 1. It is a one-year contract with a $2 million cap.

The contract stipulates a $1,000 hourly rate for all work done by the firm, including two named WilmerHale partners — Ed O’Callaghan, a former high-level DOJ official under President Donald Trump, and Aaron Zebley, a former FBI special agent and federal prosecutor.

The agreement includes an option to extend the contract for two more years, under the same terms.

It took The Lens two months and a lawsuit to view the second contract, which The Lens requested through a public-records request in March.

After no contract was supplied by the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Louisiana State Police, The Lens sued in the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge on April 29, represented by the First Amendment Law Clinic at Tulane University Law School.

On May 30, Baton Rouge judge Eboni Johnson Rose ruled that the contract was a public record, and ordered DPS to turn it over to The Lens.

Sometimes negotiations can lead to a resolution. But not always. The result that Louisiana officials seem to fear the most is a consent decree, which puts a federal judge in charge of the required reforms and the agency’s progress on those reforms.

[Attorney General Liz] Murrill’s longtime ally, Landry, has railed against the New Orleans Police Department’s ongoing federal consent decree, which stemmed from a similar federal investigation into officer misconduct.

In December, Murrill told the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate that she also hoped to avoid a similar result. “We would always prefer not to end up with a federal consent decree,” she said. “They tend to run for a very long time and be very expensive for taxpayers.”

But in Louisiana, the rate far exceeds most other state legal contracts, including ones for seemingly similar work. For instance, around the same time that Landry signed the November contract with WilmerHale, he also hired a New Orleans-based firm, Rodrigue and Arcuri, to work on “matters involving the federal government and consent decrees.”

Rodrigue and Arcuri is paid $225 an hour.

The WilmerHale contract is also nearly triple the maximum hourly fee promulgated by the attorney general, who approves all private legal contracts with government agencies. In February, AG Murrill set the maximum hourly rate for legal services at $350 an hour.

A state law regulating the hiring of outside legal counsel by state agencies also appears to prohibit rates higher than $500 per hour.  “In no case shall the attorney general, or any state agency, board, or commission….incur fees in excess of five hundred dollars per hour for legal services,” the Louisiana statute reads.

“I don’t see any authority for it in the Louisiana law,” said Dane Ciolino, a legal-ethics expert and professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, when he was asked about the November contract in January. The firm’s $750 rate was not unreasonable, given WilmerHale’s national reputation, Ciolino noted. But, he said, it didn’t seem to be allowed within Louisiana law. “I’m not aware of any exception that would let them charge those kinds of rates in excess of $500 an hour,” he said.

Asked about the state’s $500 hourly cap in January, Murrill said that the November contract was negotiated prior to her taking office. She was “reviewing it and the authority regarding rates,” she said.

In March, when The Lens followed up on the issue, a AG spokesperson said that the contract was no longer with the office, and referred questions to the state police.

So, that’s the latest with LSP, and we again extend our sincerest appreciation to The Lens/NOLA for enabling the public to learn of this matter.

4 thoughts on “Does LSP’s recent signing of $1,000/hour legal contract ($2 million cap annually with two renewals) provide direct indication that US Department of Justice will file Federal suit to place LSP under Consent Decree?”

  1. You must watch the video!!!! This is arguably one of Burn’s best videos. Insightful, brilliant, and I believe spot on.

    It is clear now that Landry attempted to change the law to hide $6 million in possibly illegal payments from the public. This stinks! However, you could argue he did it with Louisianian’s best interest in mind, which I guess makes it a little less stinky? For those of you that can’t read between the lines, let me lay it out for you. This is a bribe to get Louisiana out of trouble in the event Trump wins in Nov. Plain and simple.

    But what is more concerning is the prediction that Louisiana will be sued prior to the Nov election. It is no secret that the administration has weaponized the DOJ to go after political opponents. The radicals behind the current administration don’t care about black voters or Ronald Greene. They have been chasing Hispanic voters with open borders and policies for years and the black community has taken notice. Donald Trump’s support among blacks has doubled since 2020 and the Biden administration is concerned. To Burn’s point, the DOJ could have acted years ago but they didn’t because it wasn’t politically advantageous. Now they are losing black voters, they have a republican target in Landry, and they need an issue for political ads in swing states. So, the answer to Burn’s rhetorical question is yes, Louisiana will be sued, and it will be for the purpose of generating political ads in other states. I do think that Burn’s prediction of weeks before the election is a little late. I expect the suit in late summer.

  2. if it works, it will save the state billions. The consent decree has cost the city a f New Orleans billions and decimated it police department. They have no pro-active units and half their best detectives left for other departments. And most of all, the DOJ, corrupt police monitor and judge won’t release the city from it because they will loose their hefty paycheck. It will destroy the #1 police department in Louisiana. Small agencies rely on LSP to assist and take on their high profile cases.

  3. DOJ has destroyed countless cities across the country with consent decrees, while the Feds spy on citizens, freeze assets, and conduct warrantless raids without anyone overseeing them. $1000 an hour is worth it if it keeps Biden’s DOJ out of our State and makes us waste billions.

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