Lawyers Flood AG With Queries To Defend Georgia In Water Wars
Water case draws 29 applications by lawyers and firms wishing to defend Georgia against Florida's bid for more access to the Chattahoochee River
Lawyers who want to defend Georgia from Florida's impending lawsuit over water rights range from a former U.S. solicitor general who regularly charges more than $1,100 per hour to a recent law school graduate who offered to work for free.
Those were two of the 29 applications the Georgia Law Department received by Tuesday's deadline. Two other applications were submitted after the deadline, and the department has not yet determined whether they will be considered.
This is the first time under Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens that the Law Department has sought bids for potential special assistant attorneys general.
Last month Florida Governor Rick Scott announced his state would file an original jurisdiction action in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to limit Georgia's consumption of water from the Chattahoochee-Flint Hill-Apalachicola basin, arguing that Georgia is depleting the Apalachicola River and Bay and contributed to a federally declared commercial fishery failure of oysters this year.
Georgia Law Department Solicitor Nels Peterson, who oversees the office's appellate work, said the "enormous stakes of the case," along with the advance warning of litigation provided by Florida, warranted a search to ensure that Georgia has the best team.
"It's very rare that your opponent goes to the press and announces weeks or months ahead of time that he's going to file suit," said Peterson. "Typically, when we're in the position of appointing SAAGs, we've already been sued or we're thinking about filing suit and the fact that we're thinking of filing suit is confidential. We had the luxury of time and we might as well take it."
While the Law Department has not said how it will vet the SAAG applicants or when it will make appointments, several lawyers and firms offered to start representing the state right away.
Some of the larger or more recognizable firms to apply were King & Spalding; Strickland Brockington Lewis; Bancroft; Kazmarek Mowrey Cloud Laseter; WilmerHale; Jones Day; Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz; Hunton & Williams; Hall Booth Smith; Kirkland & Ellis and McKenna Long & Aldridge.
Former McKenna partner Bruce Brown, who opened a solo practice last year, and current McKenna partner Todd Silliman have been handling Georgia's water disputes for years. Both applied to work on the new Florida suit.
Peterson said he expected their involvement would continue regardless, and the Law Department would not disclose their application, citing attorney-client privilege from their current representation. Their current rate is $225 an hour.