Webbert is confident in his appeal of Eves v LePage – “our politicians are not above the law.”

Read the entire story here at the Portland Press Herald.

Attorneys for House Speaker Mark Eves asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn an earlier decision to dismiss Eves’ lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage.

David Webbert said in a statement after the hearing that he was confident in his appeal and said “both the U.S. and Maine constitutions make it clear that our politicians are not above the law.”

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Eves, the Democratic leader from North Berwick, sued the Republican governor last summer, alleging that LePage abused his power by threatening to withhold state funding if an educational institution in central Maine moved forward with hiring Eves to be its president.

The board of Good Will-Hinckley school in Fairfield did ultimately rescind its offer to Eves, citing the governor’s threats as one of the main reasons.

Eves argued that the governor used his executive power to intercede into his private life for political retribution.

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On Wednesday, each side addressed a three-judge panel seated in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which will issue a written ruling on the case at a later date. If the case is overturned on appeal, it would be sent back to Maine to be tried.

Webbert said the appellate judges asked several questions that gave him confidence the case may be sent back for a trial.

“The Court recognized that Maine has a ‘citizen legislature” and that the need of Maine Legislators to make a living makes them vulnerable to threats by a Governor to punish them in their ‘private life,’” the attorney said in a statement.

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The dispute began on June 5, 2015, the day Eves signed a two-year employment contract with the school.

On that day, LePage phoned the then-interim president of the school, Richard Abramson, and expressed his extreme displeasure about Eves’ selection. The governor also sent a handwritten note to the chairman of the school’s board of directors, called Eves a “hack” and made it clear that the school would lose the $1.06 million in discretionary funding that it expected to receive in the upcoming two-year budget cycle.

The dispute arose as the Legislature worked to finalize the state’s budget and marked a particularly frigid moment between legislators and LePage, who vowed to veto every bill sponsored by a Democrat because members of the House did not address his policy priorities.

The Good Will-Hinckley board rescinded its offer to hire Eves as its president on June 24. LePage admitted to reporters that he threatened to choke off funding. Eves filed suit the next month.

Eves accused the governor of using taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent his hiring by Good Will-Hinckley, and contended that LePage’s actions violated several of Eves’ constitutional rights, including his First Amendment rights of free speech, free association and political affiliation, as well as his 14th Amendment right to due process.

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“The governor’s action was out of bounds,” said Webbert

Read the entire story and listen to the report here at MPBN News.

A federal judge on Wednesday heard arguments in the lawsuit brought by Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves against Repubilcan Gov. Paul LePage.

Eves sued LePage last year over the governor’s alleged blackmail of the Good Will-Hinckley school, which hired and then fired Eves as its president at the governor’s request. At issue for the judge is whether the lawsuit should be dismissed.

For Eves and his attorney, David Webbert, the case boils down to the governor’s alleged withholding of $1 million in discretionary funding for Good Will-Hinckley, which runs a private school for at-risk youth. Webbert told U.S District Judge George Singal that the record shows that not only did the governor threaten to withhold the money, but he and his education commissioner took steps to pull it back just in case Good Will-Hinckley’s board didn’t go along with his request to get rid of Eves.

Speaking with reporters outside the courthouse, Webbert said the governor’s action was out of bounds.

“I mean you can’t break the constitution even when you have discretion. So you can’t say ‘I won’t give money to organizations that have black leadership or female leadership or Catholic leadership or that have a Democrat because I don’t like Democrats,’” he says. “Those are out of bounds in our democracy and that’s what the courts are there to enforce.”

The governor’s attorney, Patrick Strawbridge, declined to answer reporters’ questions.

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“If the money wasn’t in the budget then he couldn’t threaten it,” he says. “So, he wanted it in the budget. It was in the budget and the fact that they were starting to pay it out proves that, and I think the defendant is just misstating the record.”

Webbert told the judge that LePage’s actions were made in a “hyperpartisan political environment” in which the governor had declared war on the Democrats. He says it’s his theory that Eves was threatened because he was the leader of the Democrats.

Since his dismissal from the school Eves has not found another job and Webbert says he’s concerned that future employers may be reluctant to hire his client because of the political fallout.

Judge Singal did not indicate when he might have a decision on the motion to dismiss.