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Maine Supreme Judicial Court Upholds Authority of the Attorney General
March 10, 2015
(AUGUSTA) The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion today that the Attorney General has the authority to direct litigation on behalf of the State of Maine in the vast majority of cases.
“We are pleased with the Opinion of the Justices. There are no surprises here. The statute and the common law are clear. The Justices upheld and reinforced the independence, integrity and professionalism of the Office of the Maine Attorney General, including the ability to oppose a position that is not in the public interest,” stated Attorney General Janet T. Mills.
“We recognize the independence of the Attorney General’s Office,…as well as the authority of that office to oppose the Executive Branch in litigation,” the Justices stated.
“This Attorney General intends to uphold that historic independence and those longstanding values in the public interest for as long as I hold office,” said Mills.
The Justices declined to answer the Governor’s first question because the statute is unambiguous – all requests to hire outside counsel must be approved by the Attorney General.
The Justices did say that in the unusual case in which the Attorney General intervenes in the public interest in opposition to the administration, the Attorney General would not continue to manage or direct outside counsel. “We have never disagreed with that proposition. That is why, when the administration asked us for advice, we told them what it might cost to pursue a petition for certiorari, without setting a cap on fees or in any way telling them what to do,” said Attorney General Mills.
“Fundamentally, however, the Justices have refused the Governor’s request to destroy the core principle reflected in our Constitution and case law that it is the Maine Attorney General who is responsible for determining the voice of the public interest in the courts of Maine,” stated Mills.
“Essentially, the Governor and I are in violent agreement: He wants a lawyer, and I want him to have one. He wants to pay for it, and I want him to pay for it. If anything, this is merely a discussion over how much to pay his lawyers, and that was hardly a cause for the intervention of the third branch of government,” said Mills.