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AG’s office gets $900,000 to pay off mounting legal fees

The attorney general’s office is a little less cash-strapped.

The Executive Council yesterday unanimously approved a $900,000 budget increase to the department to help it pay off mounting litigation fees.

The funds, which will last through the end of fiscal year 2014, add nearly three times the $350,000 litigation budget the office was originally allotted earlier this year. In a letter to Gov. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Fiscal Committee, Attorney General Joe Foster said his staff’s legal fees are difficult to forecast and have proven unusually high in recent months.

The state is fighting a massive lawsuit from the Disabilities Rights Center, dozens of families and the federal Department of Justice over the adequacy of its mental health treatment, and has paid more than $1.5 million in outside counsel fees on it, with an additional $700,000 forecast through the end of this fiscal year, Foster said.

The department also continues to incur costs for its defense of Michael Addison’s 2008 capital murder conviction. The state Supreme Court upheld the conviction last month but has yet to weigh in on Addison’s death sentence. The department is also dealing with three homicide cases and other ongoing civil and consumer-related matters, which Foster said should require $135,000 in fees. Combined, the costs far surmounted the department’s available funds.

“The department currently has less than $100,000 available with approximately $300,000 of outstanding invoices waiting to be paid,” Foster wrote in the letter, sent Oct. 31.

The budget increase had been approved by the fiscal committee before yesterday’s 4-0 vote, which came without discussion.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

Legacy Comments1

Wait until mental health treatment starts up in the public schools with $8.6 million federal grant for Concord, Laconia and Rochester school districts or any other district that hires psychologists. No "informed consent" from parents will be required as psychologists use data-based decision making "to diagnose educational and behavioral disorders and to facilitate educational treatment planning." Legal fees will really mount up!

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