Appeals court breathes new life into lawsuit against LePage
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday revived a lawsuit accusing Republican Gov. Paul LePage of abuse of power and blackmail in a political feud that roiled the Statehouse and led to a failed attempt to impeach the governor.
The full 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston will hear arguments April 3 in the lawsuit brought by former Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.
Eves accused the governor of overstepping his authority when he used state funding as a threat to force a nonprofit charter school operator into rescinding a two-year job contract.
“Not for the first time, the governor crossed the line, and I will do everything I can to hold him accountable. I look forward to the outcome of the court’s final decision,” said Eves, who’s running for governor. LePage cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
A LePage spokesman said he couldn’t comment on litigation. LePage previously accused opponents of engaging in a “witch hunt.”
The original lawsuit was filed by Eves more than two years ago. The courts haven’t been on Eves’ side so far.
Both a U.S. district judge and a three-member panel of the 1st Circuit previously found that LePage couldn’t be sued for threatening to withhold about $1 million in state discretionary funding from the nonprofit that had offered a job to Eves.
The appeals court decision that affirmed the dismissal of the case came on a 2-1 decision.
It’s rare for the entire court to grant a second look at a case.
LePage’s attorneys previously contended that the governor acted because he felt Eves was unqualified for the job. They also contended he has immunity when it comes to state spending.
Eves has a new job at a Westbrook nonprofit.
His attorney, David Webbert, said Friday that the decision by the appeals court to hear a case that was previously dismissed vindicates the merits of the lawsuit.
This story has been corrected to show the court hearing is scheduled for April 3, not April 4.