AUGUSTA, Maine (CN) – Incensed over chain of command, Maine Gov. Paul LePage sued the state’s Democratic attorney general for joining a challenge to the Trump administration in California.
LePage brought the complaint in Kennebec Superior Court on Oct. 11 as states around the country grapple with President Donald Trump’s move to phase out a federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
A hallmark of the Obama administration, DACA offered certain legal protections to qualifying young immigrants who might otherwise be at risk of deportation.
Trump’s abrupt termination of DACA last month inspired several court challenges, including one by California, which Maine Attorney General Janet Mills opted to join.
Represented by the Auburn firm Skelton, Taintor & Abbott, LePage says Mills exceeded her authority.
The 6-page complaint accuses Mills of failing to receive permission from either LePage or the Maine legislature, and of acting in direct defiance of “the governor’s request that she not join the state of Maine in federal court litigation outside the state of Maine in a manner that implies that she has the authority to speak for this state in litigation in another jurisdiction.”
“The plaintiff, as governor, acting under his express constitutional power and duty to exercise all of the executive power of this state, has determined that this state supports the president’s actions,” the complaint continues. “Thus, defendant’s ultra vires actions, if permitted to stand, would prevent plaintiff from executing the duties of his office according to his own good faith judgment of the interests of the people of the state of Maine.”
LePage made similar representations in a Sept. 22 letter to Mills, which is quoted in the complaint.
“I support the end of DACA and believe its termination is in the best interest of the state of Maine and its people,” LePage told Mills.
LePage’s letter concluded with a request that she “never again take a position in any litigation challenging the end of DACA on behalf of the state of Maine, as a party or an amicus or otherwise, without a request by myself.”
“If you take a contrary position in litigation, it will prevent me from discharging my executive duties under the Maine constitution and state law to, among other things, set state policy on such matters, in addition to the fact that taking such an action will be an ultra vires violation of law by you,” he wrote.
The response by Mills, sent that same day, referred LePage to precedent, something the governor now calls “arbitrary and capricious.”
Mills, who is vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 2018 gubernatorial race, defended her involvement in the California case on behalf of Maine’s DACA recipients.
“These young people work and go to school in Maine and contribute to Maine’s diminishing work force,” Mills said in response to LePage’s suit. “As we allege in the lawsuit filed September 11, 2017: ‘Defendants’ rescission of DACA will result in Maine’s grantees losing their jobs and ability to attend college and graduate institutions. Many businesses will lose valued workers. Rescission of work authorization will threaten DACA grantees’ ability to support themselves and their families, and the forced separation of Maine families that will result from DACA’s rescission will further jeopardize the health and well-being of Maine residents.”
LePage’s argument about the attorney general’s authority hinges on the office’s roots in English Common Law, a statute that he says is too old to support the newer phenomenon of multistate litigation.
“Multistate and extraterritorial litigation is a recent development in the law from the 1980s and, as a result, cannot be characterized as one of the attorney general’s common law powers derived from English common law,” the complaint states.
No stranger to controversy, LePage has a reputation for peppering his official statements with inflammatory remarks. In addition to lamenting what he called the scourge of drug dealers, coming into Maine to impregnate “young white girl[s],” LePage once compared IRS activities to the Holocaust and remarked about the “little beards” some women grow when exposed to chemicals.
Profanity is a common theme in the governor’s statements, such as when he told critics to “kiss my butt,” or accused a state senator of “giv[ing] it to the people without providing Vaseline.”
LePage is represented by Skelton Taintor attorneys Bryan Dench and Amy Dieterich.
Back in May, LePage went to court over the refusal by Mills to represent him in federal cases, including his appeal of a denied request to eliminate Medicaid coverage for thousands of low-income young adults in Maine.
LePage is the target meanwhile of an Oct. 24 federal complaint over $8.3 million in federal grant money that a nonprofit says he accepted last month but failed to distribute.