By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Taxpayers could be on the hook for another $175,000 in legal fees under an agreement released Wednesday that Republican legislative leaders reached with a law firm to represent them in a redistricting lawsuit.
Republicans agreed to hire a pair of law firms to represent them in the case that could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Taxpayers have already spent more than $2 million to defend legislative maps that a panel of federal court judges ruled were unconstitutional. The judges sided with Democrats who argued the boundaries unfairly discriminated against them.
The engagement letters with the two law firms were released Wednesday by Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The letters were dated Feb. 9 and signed by Fitzgerald and Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
The deal calls for attorney Paul Clement, with the Washington office of the law firm Kirkland and Ellis, to be paid a flat amount based on what documents he prepares. An agreement with the Madison-based law firm of Bell Giftos St. John calls for them to be paid $300 an hour for legal work.
“These costs are absolutely out-of-line and offensive,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. “I’m sure there are a lot of hardworking Wisconsin families who would love to be paid $300 an hour. Unfortunately Republicans are choosing to throw more money at high-priced attorneys rather than investing in our schools, roads and communities.”
And Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said taxpayers should “not be spending another cent on defending unconstitutional legislative maps.”
Clement is the lead attorney and a leading expert on redistricting law. He has argued 85 cases before the Supreme Court, including multiple redistricting cases. Clement was also the NFL’s attorney in the case involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady known as Deflategate.
The agreement calls for Clement to be paid $100,000 to prepare a friend of the court brief should the Supreme Court take the case. If Republicans want two other related briefs to be filed it would cost $75,000 for both or $50,000 just for one.
Republican leaders hired their own attorneys because Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel is defending the state Elections Commission, but not lawmakers, in the case. Fitzgerald has said the Legislature needed to hire its own attorney to urge the Supreme Court to take the case and overturn the earlier ruling siding with Democrats.