Governor LePage Sues Attorney General for Abuse of Power
May 1, 2017
For Immediate Release: Monday, May 1, 2017
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced Monday he has filed a lawsuit against Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. The complaint, filed today in Kennebec County Superior Court, outlines Mills’s abuse of power by refusing to legally represent the Executive Branch in law court.
The Attorney General’s office has repeatedly refused to represent the administration in court cases she does not agree with politically. Her refusal to provide legal representation of the State, in accordance with statute, leaves all State agencies, the Governor and the Executive Branch without legal representation. These refusals have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside attorney fees, which Maine taxpayers are forced to pay.
“It is no secret that Attorney General Mills and I have differing political views, but that is not the issue,” said Governor LePage. “The problem is she has publicly denounced court cases which the Executive Branch has requested to join and subsequently refuses to provide legal representation for the State. This clear abuse of power prevents the Chief Executive from carrying out duties that in his good faith judgment is in the best interest of the people of Maine.”
When President Donald Trump issued two Executive orders relating to immigration Attorney Mills publicly opposed the first of the two orders and joined in an amicus curiae brief in opposition to it in the case of Washington v. Trump. Meanwhile, as Chief Executive, Governor LePage agreed with the President’s efforts to control immigration as a measured and appropriate action to protect the people of Maine and to enforce the laws. The Governor requested to file a countervailing brief in Washington v. Trump and requested approval from the Office of the Attorney General. AG Mills delayed and obstructed the process, preventing the Governor from receiving timely counsel on behalf of the people of Maine.
The statute that defines the duties and authority of the Attorney General under the Maine Constitution (M.R.S. SS 191(3) states that representation by Attorney General or a deputy, assistant or staff attorney shall appear for the State…in all the courts of the State and in those actions and proceedings before any other tribunal when requested by the Governor…All such actions and proceedings must be prosecuted or defended by the Attorney General or under the Attorney General’s direction…”
Also, stated, the officers or agencies of the State may not act at the expense of the State as counsel, nor employ private counsel except upon prior written approval of the Attorney General.
In a separate matter of the court, but related to the second immigration Executive Order issued by the President, the Office of the Attorney General mandated the Office of the Governor bear the cost of legal fees for outside counsel, or otherwise as appropriated by the Legislature. The Attorney General also indicated that a licensed attorney within the Office of the Governor should insure outside counsel carries adequate malpractice insurance and should review all the invoices submitted by outside counsel for reasonableness.
Shifting the financial burden to the Governor is not only inappropriate, but the Attorney General also imposed improper conditions on the authority by which the Governor shall be represented in the litigation.
The vast majority of states, 43 to be exact, avoid this scenario by holding statewide elections to fill the office of the Attorney General. Five states allow the Governor to appoint the Attorney General, again avoiding this situation.