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April 01, 2010 05:32 PM UTC

And who's paying for that lawsuit, Mr Suthers?

  • by: jaytee

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

In the health reform politics chess game, the Colorado legislature may be preparing the next move, the Colorado Independent reports from the Tea Party Express rally Wednesday.

Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue told the Colorado Independent Wednesday that Democratic lawmakers were considering ways to strip funding from Attorney General John Suthers’ office to undercut the suit Suthers joined challenging the federal health reform legislation as unconstitutional. Democrats, backed by most U.S. constitutional legal scholars  including heavy hitters in Colorado- say the suit has little chance of success and amounts to a partisan waste of state tax money at a time when the state needs every dime…

Blue said he didn’t have more details for now on which lawmakers might be behind the legislative effort. He said his sources were telling him Democrats working on the budget “long bill” were angry that Suthers, who is running for reelection, was playing politics from within the A.G.’s office. Blue didn’t know exactly which areas of the office budget Democrats would be targeting.

What would this move by the Democratic lawmakers even look like?


21 thoughts on “And who’s paying for that lawsuit, Mr Suthers?

  1. TABOR or the three issues on the ballot dealing with gutting governmental finance.

    I say suthers and his co-conspirators need to know what it really feels like to be so underfunded he can’t do anything. whether or not it is actually a waste of time and money.

    force the AG to his knees like they force education to “function”.

  2. “No department of the Executive Branch, including but not limited to the Attorney General’s office, may spend any money or paid time pursuing any means of challenging, nullifying, bypassing, or contravening the 2010 Federal Health Care Reform Act, either as originally enacted or amended during the year ending Dec. 31, 2010.”

  3. What if the AG believed that a law passed by general assembly was unconstitutional and went to court to have it invalidated?  It’s been known to happen! (see 2003)  And then the legislature tried to strip all funding for such a lawsuit?  This seems like too much of an attempted encroachment on the AG’s discretion.  The exercise of such discretion should be punished or rewarded by the voters, not by heavy-handed and short-sighted legislative tactics

      1. If the AG’s office is untouchable until an election, then it is free to spend our (thinly stretched) money in any way it sees fit.  I think someone needs to have a bit of fiscal control over things, and the Legislature is the assigned “someone”.

        1. The AG’s office says no money is being spent, the Florida AG is doing all the legal work. Staff time (including answering a lot of questions about the lawsuit) sure, but I doubt that amounts to more than a few hours.

          1. I’m not really sure what they can pass that would prevent Suthers from continuing, if it isn’t a financial restriction.

            I suppose they could issue a bill declaring the health care bill acceptable to the state, but I’m not sure that would do the trick.

        2. …in support of the notion that Suthers’ participation in the HC lawsuit will cost much money at all.  He’s simply agreed to add his name to the litigation, from what I read.  He’s not doing much else.  But I could be wrong.

        3. So, just because the AG “says” he is only spending $5,000 max on this, the voters should back off and let him do it?!?  At market rates (which his office tracks for their internal budget purposes), the $5,000 is only about 10-15 hours of legal work total.  NO competent lawyer would get in that fight on only 10 hours.

          And, moreover, I don’t know what is more insulting to me as a voter:  that he tries to brush it off by saying he will be spending ‘only’ $5,000, or that he is actually suggesting he is willing to get into such a large constitutional battle with the federal government, yet half-ass it by not actually doing any work on the case.

    1. It’s part of the system of checks and balances.  The Legislature has the power of the purse; it’s main means of reigning in the Executive is through that power.  In a system where the governor does not on his own have much power over the AG’s office, it is one of the few controls on the office aside from the vote.

      If the AG’s office had been prevented in 2003 from advocating against a clearly unconstitutional (state level) proceeding in the Legislature, then someone else with interest – e.g. the Democratic Party or perhaps a Democratic legislator – could have filed suit.  The same goes for now.  (Except that no rational private lawyer would take the case until 2014 – the issue isn’t ripe for the courts’ consideration.)

      1. If “it’s not at all unprecedented,” there must be many examples.  Do you know of one instance in which the legislature used the power of the purse to prevent the AG from pursuing a particular lawsuit?

    2. One, my understanding is that the state attorney general is legally obligated to defend the state government in court. (This seems true in most places, so I assume it’s true here.) So suing to overturn a legitimately passed law would be impossible; the AG would have to sue himself.

      Two, it’s a state vs. a federal issue. If Suthers has no support in the state government for this little adventure, then he’s essentially suing as an individual and thus doesn’t seem to have standing.

      I’m not sure of the precise legal issues here though. You might give a more precise citation of what you’re referring to than “see 2003.” It’s easy to google “2003” but hard to get any useful results.

      1. Ken Salazar, as AG, sued the CO Secretary of State to challenge the constitutionality of the CO legislature’s redistricting statute.  And he won, from what I remember.  The notion was that the AG had an independent duty to defend the state constitution against the legislature’s unconstitutional action.

        1. In that case, he challenged the manner in which the redistricting was passed: the GOP-controlled Legislature didn’t follow the proper legislative procedures in the reading of the bill.  The Legislature adjourned before the AG filed the case and had no opportunity to pass a bill restricting his challenge.

          Our system of government is built with inherent conflicts and counter-balances; in our state, the AG is a mostly independent division of the Executive branch, and can act on his/her own.  But the Legislature/Governor can pass laws controlling the AG’s expenses and of course laws for the AG to prosecute.  The courts can overrule either (or both) based on the constitutionality of a law or act.  (And at least at the Federal level, the Legislature/Executive can pass laws prohibiting the court from examining certain laws at all…)

          1. The AG did not challenge the manner in which the bill was passed (re: reading of the bill or anything else).  Instead, he alleged that the legislature had no power at all in 2003 to pass another redistricting law (regardless of the procedure) because the redistricting had already been done once after the 2000 census (in 2002, by the courts).  I remember following the press accounts pretty closely.

            1. The once-per-decade limitation is enshrined in the State Constitution as well – it was a good decision by Salazar.

              I don’t generally have a problem with the AG suing against unconstitutional law, and if the various states’ AGs seemed to have a stronger case I’d support Suthers’ right to challenge the HCR law, but the case filed is so weak it really is a waste of taxpayer money.

              (In other news, Alabama is moving toward making participation at any level in any health care system non-compellable; it’s passed the State Senate on its way to becoming a voter referendum to be enshrined in the state’s Constitution.)

              1. If they keep the provisions about pre-existing conditions, I’d say that health insurance won’t be available in Alabama on an individual basis. Large groups? Sure. Individuals? Nope, it’s not a viable business model.

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