Dayton hires lawyer to fight legislature’s lawsuit

Updated at 5:45 p.m. with court hearing scheduled

Gov. Mark Dayton is hiring a former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice to represent him in a lawsuit filed by the state Legislature.

Dayton said Wednesday that he retained Sam Hanson of the Briggs and Morgan firm. Hanson served on the state supreme court from 2002-2008. Meanwhile, a judge scheduled the first hearing in the case for June 26, just five days before the new fiscal year begins.

The announcements came a day after Republican legislative leaders filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Dayton’s recent line-items vetoes of funding for the House and Senate. The suit contends the governor violated the separation of powers clause of  the Minnesota Constitution. The lawsuit seeks restoration of the two-year funding of $129 million that Dayton zeroed out.

Dayton argues the constitution places no limitations on his line-item veto authority. He took the action to get GOP leaders to renegotiate some tax and policy provisions in bills he signed following last month’s special session.

“It’s regrettable that Republican Legislative Leaders have chosen a legal battle to protect their excessive tax giveaways, which will cost the State of Minnesota over $5 Billion during the next decade,” Dayton said in a news release announcing the hiring of Hanson. “I will continue to urge the Republican legislative majorities to agree to remove these fiscally irresponsible tax cuts, and to repeal their un-Minnesotan attacks on our state’s immigrant communities and our teachers.”

Dayton said he chose to hire outside counsel after reviewing the lawsuit and consulting with DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Under the contract with the state, Hanson will be paid an hourly rate of $506.25. That’s a 25 percent discount from his standard rate of $675 per hour.  Other Briggs and Morgan attorneys assisting Hanson will be paid at discounted rates based on their experience and expertise. The range for those attorneys is $217.50 to $435 per hour. The range of pay for the firm’s paralegals and support staff is $75 to $217.50 per hour.

The contract says fees incurred shall not exceed $150,000.