Dayton, Lawmakers Legal Battle Will Be Expensive

June 15, 2017 07:04 PM

The high-stakes legal battle between Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders won't be cheap and taxpayers will pick up the tab.

One reason for that is the governor's decision to hire outside legal counsel to represent him rather than using the Minnesota Attorney General.

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READ: Gov. Dayton's Law Firm Contract

"The attorney general is usually the governor's lawyer," notes Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier. "Did the attorney general discuss this with the governor and decide this was not a case worth pursuing by the attorney general?

"If so, why? A lot of questions there."

READ: House and Senate Law Firm Contract

The governor will only say he decided to hire outside counsel "after reviewing the lawsuit and in consultation with the attorney general."

He hired Sam Hanson, a former Minnesota Supreme Court justice, at a cost of $506.25 per hour. Other attorneys and staff in his firm will earn $75 to $435 per hour.

The contract with the Dayton administration is capped at $150,000.

A spokesman for Attorney General Lori Swanson would only say "it's the governor's prerogative" to hire outside counsel.

Last week, Swanson told reporters her office would usually be involved in a case like this.

"Typically, the attorney general's office does defend and provide representation to the officials of the government, but we have to see the lawsuit first," Swanson said.

The legislative legal team won't be cheap either. They've hired prominent Minneapolis attorney Doug Kelley at $325 per hour. Other staff will earn $90 to $250 per hour.

There is no specified cap on expenses in their contract.

"They're soon to run out of money yet they're spending money from their meager funds on legal fees in this case," Schier said of the legislature.

The legislature is fighting to preserve funding for its operations the governor line-item vetoed after a special session. He wants lawmakers to come back in another special session and renegotiate parts of the tax bill and other policy provisions.

The two sides will be in court June 26. However, it's already having an impact on the state.

A Wall Street credit rating agency put Minnesota on a "watch" list Thursday because of concerns about the impact of the case on state operations.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka issued this statement after the credit rating news came out:

"There are real consequences to defunding the legislature, including a potential credit downgrade. The governor should call an immediate special session to fund the legislature. If he refuses, I'm hopeful the courts will step in soon to declare the governor's action unconstitutional so the state can continue to pay its obligations and avoid potential negative consequences to our credit rating."

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Tom Hauser

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