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LePage Suing Attorney General for Failing to Represent Him

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Gov. Paul LePage in March.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage announced late Monday afternoon that he has taken the unusual step of filing a lawsuit against Maine Attorney General Janet Mills over what he claims is her abuse of power.

LePage, a Republican, has repeatedly clashed with Mills, a Democrat, who was elected by the Maine Legislature in 2013. In a written statement, the governor says Mills has repeatedly refused to represent the administration in court cases with which she does not agree politically.

According to LePage, this has left state agencies, including the executive branch, without legal representation and resulted in Maine taxpayers being required to spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside attorneys fees.”

“It is no secret that Attorney General Mills and I have differing political views,” LePage said. “But that is not the issue. 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.”

According to the lawsuit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court, Mills is preventing LePage from executing the duties of his office by refusing to represent the state of Maine’s interests.

As examples, the governor cites two executive orders issued by President Donald Trump relating to immigration. Mills publicly opposed the first of the two and joined in an amicus brief in opposition to it in the state of Washington. When LePage asked to file a countervailing brief in Washington v. Trump and requested approval from the Maine attorney general, the lawsuit says Mills “delayed and obstructed the process, preventing the governor from receiving timely counsel on behalf of the people of Maine.”

In addition, when President Trump issued a second executive order to control immigration into the United States, LePage wrote Mills a letter to request that she either represent him or give written approval for him to engage private counsel to do so. According to the lawsuit, the attorney general not only declined, but also refused to pay for the cost of legal fees for outside counsel.

LePage maintains that this is inappropriate and that there should be a “fiscal consequence” for her refusal to provide legal representation to the state.

All of these actions, LePage claims, exceed the scope of Mills’ authority and constitute a breach of her duties under the Maine Constitution. The lawsuit asks that the governor be able to retain independent counsel without limitations and that the attorney general’s office must pay the costs.

But in a written statement released Monday night, Mills disputed LePage’s claims, saying she “has never denied the governor the ability to retain outside counsel in any particular matter.”

“Instead of signing onto another party’s brief at no cost to the taxpayers,” the statement continues, “or hiring a lawyer to draft his own brief, the governor has wasted state resources by hiring a lawyer to file a frivolous lawsuit, complaining that he cannot do exactly what we have told him he can do.”

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport also released a statement Monday evening in response to the suit.

“It appears as though the relationship between the attorney general and the governor has deteriorated to a point where the basic function of legal representation is not happening the way it’s supposed to,” he said. “Maybe it takes a lawsuit to force the attorney general to act appropriately in the representation of the state and the governor’s office in legal matters.”