February 25, 2018
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Appeals court revives former House speaker’s lawsuit against LePage

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Mark Eves
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff
Updated:

A lawsuit by former Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves against Republican Gov. Paul LePage, which was rejected in court last year, will advance after being revived Friday in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court Friday granted what is known as an en banc hearing, meaning the court’s previous ruling will be vacated and its full panel of appeals judges will consider the matter as opposed to a select panel of judges who made the earlier ruling.

Eves on Friday called the “highly unusual” ruling “a comeback for the rule of law” and “one step closer to making sure that no other governor can do this in the future.”

Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for LePage, said the governor couldn’t comment because of the pending litigation.

In November 2016, Eves’ lawsuit was dismissed 2-1 by the appeals court, reaffirming an earlier ruling by U.S. District Court Judge George Singal.

[Mark Eves loses appeal in lawsuit against LePage]

Eves’ lawsuit alleged that LePage illegally retaliated against Eves when he threatened to withhold state funding from Eves’ future employer, Good Will-Hinckley, a charter school for at-risk teens in Fairfield. The Fairfield nonprofit later rescinded its offer to make Eves its next president.

[Charter school breaks contract with Eves after LePage threat]

In the earlier decision, two of the judges on the panel ruled that LePage is shielded by the immunity clause, which protects elected officials from civil lawsuits. Among other things, Eves sought to prevent LePage from threatening the nonprofit again and to seek civil rights training.

In the original lawsuit, Eves sought financial compensation including lost wages, legal expenses and punitive damages. Though the court could decide to award damages, Eves has removed that request from his legal argument.

“We have deferred that decision to the courts and the jury that might take this case up,” said Eves on Friday. “This has never been about money. It’s about holding the governor accountable so no governor or elected official in the future can use their power to blackmail a political opponent.”

Eves and LePage have long been bitter political rivals, and Eves is one of several Democrats running to replace LePage as governor in this year’s elections.

Both sides in the revived case have been asked to answer a set of questions in preparation for a hearing scheduled for April 3 in Boston.

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