By Woody Jenkins, Editor, Capital City News
BATON ROUGE — For months, Attorney General candidate Jeff Landry has blasted incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell for allegedly operating a corrupt “Buddy System” that allows Caldwell to steer lucrative contracts to outside legal counsel to represent the state in complex civil litigation. A series of TV spots is running statewide calling for an end to the “Buddy System.”
Caldwell has responded that he has hired the best legal firms available and that the results have been extraordinary, resulting among other things in the largest civil settlement in an environmental case in U.S. history — the BP case, in which Caldwell won $6.8 billion for the state — at no cost to the taxpayer. He said contracts are awarded on the merits without any sort of quid pro quo.
Landry Firm Received Funds. Now an investigative report by the Capital City News has uncovered a startling revelation — the law firm Landry claimed to be associated with for most of the past 10 years is one of “Buddy’s Buddies” and received $323,821 in legal fees from the BP settlement. The firm, Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith, has been under contract with the Attorney General’s office from March 2011 until the present.
For months, the Landry and Caldwell campaigns have made conflicting claims. Landry has focused on the “Buddy System,” while Caldwell has focused on his 42 years as a practicing attorney, District Attorney, and Attorney General. For months, Landry, who graduated from Loyola Law School in 2005, claimed that he worked for one of Louisiana’s “top law firms” for 10 years, but never named the firm. In turn, Caldwell charged that Landry has never tried a civil or criminal case, never handled a jury trial, never appeared before a court of appeals, and never run a major law office or prosecutor’s office.
Name of Law Firm Led to Discovery of Link to AG Office. The two conflicting arguments made by Landry and Caldwell came together in an unusual way this past weekend. Under pressure to reveal the name of the “top firm” where Landry had practiced law, the Landry campaign posted an on-line link to the law firm Galloway, Johnston, Tompkins, Burr & Smith.
A quick check of attorneys representing the Attorney General’s office in the BP case revealed that Landry’s firm was in fact one of the firms on “Buddy’s list” that Landry had been campaigning against.
Landry Did Not Reveal His Firm Had State Contract. Despite the fact that Landry had been pounding Caldwell’s selection of outside counsel by the Attorney General’s office, Landry has never revealed that the “top firm” he had been associated with was one of those firms he called “Buddy’s Buddies.”
In recent weeks, reporters have scoured the public record, attempting to learn whether Landry has in fact practiced law, but they have found little evidence that he has.
Loyola Law School lists Landry as graduating with a J.D. degree in 2005. Landry’s campaign said in a television commercial that he worked for a “top law firm” in the state for 10 years, which would indicate Landry worked with the “top firm” from 2005 to 2015.
No Legal Income in Landry’s Personal Financial Disclosures. Adding to the confusion was the fact that when Landry ran for and was elected to Congress, he was required to file personal financial disclosure forms for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012. When he qualified for Attorney General this year, state law required him to file a personal disclosure form for 2014. However, none of those forms show income from a “top law firm” or from any law firm during those four years. The only legal income shown was from Jeff Landry paying himself $12,000 in one of those years.
Landry has been repeatedly asked what “top law firm” he worked for but never provided an answer. In an interview with the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish, he said he had appeared in court in numerous parishes in Acadiana, but he did not reveal the name of the firm.
However, on Saturday, Oct. 10, Landry’s campaign manager posted on Facebook the following: “A few folks have suggested that they couldn’t find where Jeff practiced law. His bio is still on their website. www.gjtbs.com.” He added, “Jeff worked there and has been very successful in private practice working on large, corporate contracts.” The link to Landry’s page on the law firm’s website is http://www.gjtbs.com/~gjtbspl/ftpuser/upload/01229127.PDF. The page was still on the website this morning.
Galloway Johnson Firm Cited. The website, www.gjtbs.com, is the website for Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith, which has a number of offices in Louisiana and Texas.
Regarding its contract with the Attorney General’s office, Galloway Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith says on its website, “MDL-2179 In re Oil Spill by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig — The firm is retained by the Louisiana Attorney General to represent the State of Louisiana in this multi-district litigation consolidated before Judge Carl Barbier in the Eastern District of Louisiana. The State of Louisiana has asserted state and federal claims against BP, Transocean and several other defendants.”
The firm’s website also says, “For 25 years, the class action attorneys at Galloway Johnson have represented local, national and international corporations and insurers in complex, multi-party claims and class actions involving thousands of claimants. We have defended claims for short-term and long-term exposure to hazardous materials, toxic substances, silica, and asbestos, as well as products liability involving the sale of hazardous and other substances. Our experience in mass tort litigation and class action law includes a vast array of claims for personal injuries, property damage, and economic losses in industries involving petroleum products, chemical products, building products, and industrial equipment.”
TV Spot Misrepresents Who Pays for Outside Counsel and Who The State Sued. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Landry’s own law firm had a contract with the Attorney General’s office and was one of “Buddy’s Buddies,” a group called Louisiana Citizens for Job Creators PAC has taken up Landry’s theme and has been running a 30-second spot that includes the following statements:
• “It pays to be a friend of Buddy Caldwell. It pays a lot. Since becoming Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell has paid his friends and contributors millions to sue Louisiana businesses.”
In fact, a review of Department of Justice records shows that all of “Buddy’s Buddies” were paid by the losing parties, not by the taxpayers, and none of the suits were against Louisiana businesses. The suits were against BP and 109 national and international pharmaceutical companies.
The Attorney General normally pays outside counsel only in cases involving complex litigation defending Louisiana statutes, such as the defense of the constitutionality of Louisiana’s marriage law, according to a source at the office.
The spot continues:
• “He’s wasted our tax dollars and killing our jobs.”
However, no tax dollars were expended for the attorneys identified as “Buddy’s Buddies”.
TV Spot Ignores Landry’s Firm. In September 2014, WWL-TV ran an investigative piece questioning the ethics of Caldwell’s selection of outside counsel. Since the story was done before Landry became a candidate, it failed to mention the fact that Landry’s law firm, Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith, received the same state contracts.
Nevertheless, a super PAC called Public Integrity Alliance Inc. of Mesa, Arizona, has been running an ad called “The Buddy System.” It includes portions of the WWL-TV report. The spot includes language from the report saying that Caldwell is “hiring high price outside lawyers on major cases.” However, the spot leaves out that part of the WWL-TV report that explains that the attorneys in most major cases have been hired and paid for at no cost to the taxpayers. It also neglects to mention that Jeff Landry’s firm is one of “Buddy’s Buddies.”
Attorney Fees in BP Case. In the BP case, Caldwell won a settlement for the taxpayers of the state of $6.8 billion — the largest such award in U.S. history. According to the Attorney General’s office, the loser in that case, BP, paid its attorneys more than $3 billion. BP also paid for the attorneys for the winner in the case — the State of Louisiana. The attorneys for the state received $29 million, or about 1 percent of the attorney fees BP paid its own attorneys and one-half of one percent of the settlement amount. BP also
paid the state’s cost of litigation.
In the BP case, neither the State of Louisiana nor the taxpayers picked up the tab for the state’s attorneys, the AG’s office said.
Jeff Landry Firm Gave Caldwell
$5,000 in January
BATON ROUGE — Attorney General candidate Jeff Landry has alleged that his opponent, incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, operates a corrupt “Buddy System” that hires law firms to do state work and then those firms turn around and contribute to Caldwell’s campaign.
However, on Jan. 31, 2015, the “top firm” Landry was associated with, Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smtih contributed $5,000 to Caldwell’s campaign. The firm is receiving $323,821 in BP attorney fees for its work for the State. The Galloway is the “top firm” Landry said he has been associated with for 10 years, according to Landry’s campaign manager. Landry graduated from Loyola Law School in 2005, according to the school.