The legal battle between Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature will be funded by taxpayers. But it’s not yet clear how big of a tab they’ll be picking up.
Both sides hired outside legal teams in the Legislature’s case against Dayton over the governor’s line-item veto of legislative funding. Former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Sam Hanson, now with the law firm Briggs and Morgan, is reducing his usual hourly rate from $675 to $506.25 as attorney for Dayton. Hanson’s contract says the firm won’t incur more than $5,000 in expenses per month without special approval, and fees are capped at $150,000.
The Legislature, meanwhile, has enlisted the help of Douglas Kelley of Kelley, Wolter & Scott, who is discounting his usual $650 hourly fee to $325 per hour. Kelley is a former federal prosecutor who has been involved in several high-profile legal matters, including the Ponzi scheme case of Wayzata businessman Tom Petters.
The DFL governor said he blocked funding for the House and Senate after a contentious legislative session in an effort to get lawmakers back to the negotiating table on a handful of issues he sees as critical: tax cuts, teacher licensing standards and driver’s licenses for immigrants living in the country illegally, among others.
The Republican-majority Legislature argues that the move violated the state’s constitution, will put hundreds of lawmakers and legislative staff out of a job and could threaten the state’s ability to make payments on the new Senate office building. The state is set to stop funding the Legislature on July 1.