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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Law - "Analysis: State attorneys general: New Republican power"

Joan Biskupic, now at Reuters, has this long, interesting story today about federal challenges brought by state attorneys general:

Abbott and Bondi [Texas AG Greg Abbott and Florida AG Pam Bondi] said litigation costs are largely absorbed through their in-house legal staffs. For the 26-state healthcare challenge, the states hired outside lawyer Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush. Clement agreed to a flat $250,000 fee, divided among the states.

On Wednesday, Clement will be representing Arizona in its defense of its immigration law before the Supreme Court. Clement and his legal team will receive $250,000 for work in preparation on this week's case, said Matthew Benson, a spokesman in the Arizona governor's office.

Among those leading the expanding Republican contingent of state attorneys general are veterans such as Abbott, elected in 2002, and new figures backed by the conservative Tea Party movement such as Bondi, who was sworn in last year. Their lawsuits have touched on a myriad of politically charged issues.

In February, seven Republican attorneys general, including Abbott and Bondi, joined Catholic institutions in a case against the Obama administration and its new contraceptive coverage required by the healthcare overhaul. Separately, Abbott and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have taken the lead in ongoing challenges to U.S. environmental protection regulation.

Many of the Republican top state prosecutors also have vigorously fought against Department of Justice efforts to block state voter-identification and other new electoral rules that could themselves affect turnout and ballot results. Texas and Florida have, in addition, challenged the longstanding federal law that requires places with a history of bias against blacks and other minority voters to clear any electoral changes with the federal government. * * *

Major Republican challenges related to the environment, including one Virginia joined with industry groups against regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions, now at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, are still awaiting resolution. * * *

To be sure, attorneys general, most of whom are elected to four-year terms and whose work mainly involves consumer advocacy and crime busting, still join forces across party lines. "Attorneys general, Republican and Democratic alike over the last 10 years, have become somewhat more partisan and more aggressive," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat who was first elected in 1978. "But ... the vast majority of things that AGs do are on a bipartisan basis." In March, 49 state attorneys general (all but Oklahoma's) joined the U.S. government in a $25 billion settlement with five major mortgage lenders to help distressed borrowers.

The fact that the partisan split between states' attorneys general is now nearly even has largely gone unnoticed by the public. But during arguments on the healthcare law, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wryly asked Clement, who was representing the state challengers, "Is there any chance that all 26 states opposing it have Republican governors, and all of the states supporting it have Democratic governors? Is that possible?"

"There's a correlation, Justice Scalia," said Clement.

ILB: What about Indiana? Discovering what federal lawsuits the State of Indiana is participating in is not an easy matter. See this ILB entry from August 7, 2009 headed "Who should decide Indiana's position on national legal issues? Who should know?, calling for transparency.

Several years ago, with cooperation from AG Zoeller's office, the ILB was able to prepare a 2009 table of AG Zoeller Amicus Briefs. My hope had been that the AG's website would initiate a similar table, continuously disclosing the lawsuits the AG has elected to participate in, and to take a position in on behalf of Indiana's citizens.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 24, 2012 09:31 AM
Posted to General Law Related | Indiana Government