The item on the Ecclesia Colege scandal brought a comment from another lawyer Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is fighting in court for his effort to correct the wrongs done by the legislature in the unconstitutional General Improvement Fund boondoggle.
John Ogles of Jacksonville called my attention to Rutledge’s months-long fight to prevent payment of attorney fees to Ogles for representing former legislator Mike Wilson of Jacksonville in the successful taxpayer suit that brought down — for the third time — the legislature’s unconstitutional efforts to get around a ban on shipping state money to pork barrel local projects.
The latest scam was to distribute money to regional planning and development districts for “grants” for economic development. It was money laundering. Legislators still controlled the money. Grants were made
Wilson, with Ogles as his lawyer digging through the mountains of paperwork, convinced the Arkansas Supreme Court that this scheme was unconstitutional. Wilson sued only the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District in which he lived. By the time it was done, other GIF money was gone and the Central Arkansas agency was still holding onto only about $1 million in state money, not yet frittered away on local pork projects. Judge Chris Piazza ultimately ordered the money returned to the state. But he also ordered that Ogles get more than $323,000 in attorney fees from the unspent money for his meritorious work.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has already twice rebuffed Rutledge’s attempt to block payment of several thousand dollars in court costs in the case. But that hasn’t stopped Attorney General Rutledge from fighting since July to keep Ogles from being paid for his labor. HER office is on the public teat and its attorneys, who’ve been losing repeatedly, get taxpayer money. But she argues that Ogles — the winning lawyer — should get nothing for doing the kind of watchdog work that discourages boondoggles such as these from repeating.
Rutledge argues the state is immune from this claim (sovereign immunity). The Supreme Court rejected that argument as to the costs issue. She argues that the state can’t be made to pay damages, Ogles argues it can when it acts illegally or unconstitutionally (as here).
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in the case, but, as yet, no date has been set.
For the record, here’s Ogles’ latest argument against the state’s effort to punish his good legal deed.
Ogles cites the Lakeview school funding case, in which the Supreme Court decided attorney fees were deserved because of the benefit to the state. Mike Wilson’s suit has recovered ill-spent state money and put a stop to a practice that could have taken millions more. Ogles wrote:
Appellants cannot seriously deny, and the Circuit Court noted, that Wilson’s concerted efforts over many years (Wilson I) 2006 in which he neither sought nor received attorney’s fees and (Wilson II) 2007 in which he neither sought nor received attorney’s fees – have resulted in substantial benefit to public taxpayers.
In the current litigation, brought about as a result of legislators’ unlawful attempts to make an “end run” around the force of our Constitution and the rules of Wilson I and Wilson II (by inserting a money-laundering machine in the form of a subservient Planning and Development District to do their individual, personal private bidding) now the Appellants continue to attempt to place costly obstacles in the path of taxpayers seeking public accountability by forcing taxpayers to stop such plunders at their individual personal cost and expense.
The question arises: Is Attorney General Leslie Rutledge representing taxpayers here or legislators who cook up illegal schemes?