AUSTIN, Texas — The legal fees to defend Texas Governor Rick Perry since he was indicted by a grand jury last August for two felony charges have passed the one million dollar mark, according to the latest campaign finance report filed by his PAC, Texans for Rick Perry.
Perry had threatened to veto the funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office after the Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving and was caught on video being abusive to law enforcement officers.
Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry vetoed the funding, and he was indicted for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. Perry has steadfastly insisted that his actions were within the powers granted to him as Governor by the Texas Constitution, and vowed, “I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win.”
As Breitbart Texas had reported, Perry quickly assembled an all-star legal team to manage his defense, headed up by Tony Buzbee, a nationally recognized trial attorney based out of Houston, and this level of legal representation does not come cheap. According to a report by Texas Lawyer, Perry’s PAC has paid five law firms the following amounts for legal fees and costs:
- The Buzbee Law Firm (Houston): $455,476
- Botsford & Roark (Austin): 180,990
- Jones Day (Washington, D.C.): $169,647
- Baker Botts (Dallas): $141,462
- McDermott Will & Emory (Washington, D.C. and Chicago): $126,665
All together, these legal fees total $1,074,240. An additional $76,500 was reported as being paid for “legal defense consulting” to three payees: $17,000 to John P. McConnell Inc. in Washington, D.C., $17,000 to Matthew Scully of Scottsdale, Arizona, and $42,500 to The JBH Group in New York.
“There are a lot of very good, and very expensive, lawyers working on this case. This is an unprecedented assault on the powers of the Texas Governor’s office,” wrote Buzbee, in an email to Texas Lawyer. Buzbee declined to provide further details about the fees paid to each firm, saying, “I won’t reveal legal strategy.”
The legal fees represent over half of the PAC’s total expenditures ($2,015,511) during the last reporting period, which covered July 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2014. The PAC raised $376,581 during that same time, and reports having $2,859,665 remaining in its account.
The Texas Lawyer article quoted a number of other attorneys who questioned the steep price of Perry’s legal fees, but acknowledged that his attorneys were nationally recognized and these kind of fees were not unheard of for highly prominent cases.
“These are high stakes; very complicated; requires a lot of research and writing. But, you know, whether these fees are justified would depend on an analyzation of the billing records,” said Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor who now represents white-collar criminal defendants. “Because of attorney client privilege—well, we will never know.”
Geary Reamey, a criminal law professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, said, “He’s hired people to represent him in this matter who are very expensive, because they have very high profiles. So if they are charging him an hourly rate for their services I’m sure that hourly rate is quite high. In a short amount of time you can run up an awful lot in expense.” Reamey said that an average criminal defendant might spend less than $10,000, maybe even less than $5,000, to get to this pre-trial point in the proceedings, but complex cases naturally cost more.
Reamey explained further that legal costs depend heavily on how much a defendant is willing to pay. A wealthy defendant in a financial fraud case could spend up to $2 to $3 million through the end of the case. “You can spend an awful lot of money on any criminal case if you have unlimited funds to spend,” Reamey said. “That is what the governor is doing in this case.”
Buzbee shrugged off these comments, pointing out the unique nature of the case. “Have they ever lead a team of lawyers across multiple states defending the governor of one of the largest states in the U.S.?,” he wrote. “There are five law firms on this case who have been working for over six months. I don’t think you can compare it to a typical criminal defense case. I can tell you on the civil side, the amount is low for what I have seen spent by that many firms in the same time period.”
District Attorney Pro Tem Michael McCrum, a former federal prosecutor who now owns his own criminal defense law firm in San Antonio, was appointed to serve as Perry’s prosecutor because of the obvious conflict of interest that the Travis County District Attorney’s Office would have. Records show that McCrum received $97,797 in taxpayer funds for his work up to the grand jury indictment in August 2014. He was unable to provide an estimate of his post-indictment legal fees during the subsequent five months.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.