Today, January 5, 2016, Governor Paul LePage (R) filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against him by Speaker of the House, Mark Eves (D). This motion was filed on the grounds that Governor LePage is immune from the lawsuit that seeks to curb his freedom of speech as an elected official, stating that political disputes of this nature do not belong in court.
The lawsuit, filed by Speaker Eves in July, claims that Governor LePage’s promise to withhold state funding from his discretionary funds directly caused the Good Will-Hinckley’s board of directors to rescind its offer for Speaker Eves, a vocal opponent of charter schools, to lead the charter school as president.
According to the brief, precedent establishes that cases involving political disputes have no place in the courtroom, citing examples from the U.S Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Maine courts.
The brief states that “the people of Maine elected their Governor for his policies, including his strong support for charter schools. The Constitution does not require the Governor to stand by in silence and continue to allocate discretionary funds to a school that has, in his view, hired a leader that is a dedicated opponent of charter schools.” It has been no secret that during his tenure in Augusta, Speaker Eves has been an avid opponent of charter schools. Therefore, it does not go beyond reason for Governor Lepage to believe that as president of a charter school, Speaker Eves may have used the Governor’s discretionary funding against the policy goals of the administration.
In an amusing twist, the brief also suggests that, no Speaker of the House of “ordinary firmness” would have his speech chilled by the Governor’s alleged conduct. And to find otherwise could open the courthouse doors to everyday political disputes.
The brief goes on to state that the Governor’s alleged actions are a form of protected speech that cannot form the basis for a retaliation claim, therefore, the court should dismiss both counts the Amended Complaint with prejudice.
If the motion to dismiss is not granted, it is unlikely that this case will make it to trial this year.