Republican Governor Paul LePage has filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Mills, alleging she has cost the state of Maine thousands of dollars in outside counsel fees by refusing to represent him in several pertinent cases. The governor and his administration has paid nearly $400,000 in the past three years, funding private law firms representing him in court after the Democratic attorney general decided it was not in the public’s best interest to represent him.
This year, the governor asked the attorney general’s office to execute or pay for his own amicus briefs in support of Republican President Donald Trump’s immigration and travel orders. The office has yet to disclose the exact cost of its latest lawsuit, filed by former campaign treasurer and donor Bryan Dench in Kennebec County Superior Court this month, stating that it will take time to develop an accurate figure. A state maintained database of government finances details the cost of such fights, but is only updated periodically.
According to a 1989 state Supreme Judicial Court decision, in the state of Maine, the attorney general is an independent constitutional officer who can decide on his or her own whether to represent the governor. This determination is made by keeping in mind the public’s best interest. LePage believes that Mills has overstepped her constitutional right to refusal, however, and initially decided to take the matter to Maine’s high court and the Legislature in 2015, where he lost fighting to amend this portion of the state’s constitution. He also was unsuccessful in asking lawmakers for the needed funds for outside counsel.
Now LePage is saying he would pay for the lawsuit against Mills with money from his contingency fund, which he’s used to pay for other lawsuits. “But there’s not enough to fight all these battles,” he said. In fighting his battles, LePage requested outside counsel because he believed it would be a conflict of interest for the attorney general’s office. The office said it didn’t “necessarily agree” but approved the request, nevertheless. LePage is alleging that Mills is jeopardizing his executive power.
Paid out of pocket funding included $160,000 to Consovoy McCarthy Park, paid for by the state’s risk management money. The park has a Boston office and represented LePage in a case that was ultimately dismissed. $225,000 was also paid out to Roach Hewitt Ruprecht Sanchez & Bischoff, which represented Maine in two lawsuits. LePage hired the Portland law firm in 2014 to appeal the federal government’s denial of his request to remove 6,000 young adults from the state’s Medicaid program. The case was determined to have “little legal merit” and wouldn’t be a good use of funding. So, that lawsuit failed as well.
LePage actually won a case in 2015, in which the Maine Municipal Association and two cities filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s policy to withhold General Assistance benefits to illegal immigrants living in the state. It ended in a split ruling, which Portland officials estimate cost the city about $3 million in state reimbursements. However, the governor will need assistance to continue fighting his battles.