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Court Hears Case Against Maine Governor for Blackmail (Again)

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 04, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lawyers threw a political football into a federal appeals court, arguing whether Maine's governor wrongfully tried to keep his Democratic opponent from getting a job.

Gov. Paul LePage allegedly blackmailed a charter school, threatening to withhold funding if it gave a job to former House Speaker Mark Eves. A trial judge dismissed the case, but an appeal put the controversy back in the news.

At oral arguments before the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges seemed to show little interest in a political game. Two of the six jurists didn't even show up.

En Banc

It wasn't a complete yawner, but the media reported that the jurists gave "little indication about how they might rule." Maybe it's because the First Circuit already ruled on the issue.

A three-judge panel of the court had ruled for LePage last year. A 2-1 majority said he was immune in his official capacity and no law prohibited his action.

However, the First Circuit decided in January to hear the appeal again en banc. At least, a majority chose to hear it.

There was no reported explanation for why two judges missed the oral arguments. Perhaps they had heard enough already.

Field Day

The underlying controversy started with a press conference in 2015, when the governor rallied against the outgoing speaker. LePage attacked Eves for undercutting his policies.

"Frankly, I think the Speaker of the House should go back where he was born," LePage said.

Eves said that LaPage "without due process took away the Speaker's job that he was counting on to support his wife and three young children."

The appeals court is expected to rule before November, when the governor's term will end by law.

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