Unknown tab in the mask law appeal

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Neither governor officials nor legislative leaders have any estimate of how much the state will end up paying private lawyers to represent them in appealing a judge’s decision to temporarily block a state law banning it. the mask warrants.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Friday that she would appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court a decision by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, which temporarily bars authorities from enforcing a law in the State banning mask warrants by most state and government entities, including public schools.

Payments from the Bureau of Legislative Research to a Little Rock law firm for representing House and Senate leaders in the case will depend on the amount of work and the experience and expertise of the lawyers in the firm in the case, said Marty Garrity, director of the office.

She said Tuesday she had no estimate of how much the office would spend on legal fees.

Dover Dixon Horne PLLC attorney Randy Bynum said in a letter dated Friday to Garrity that the law firm would bill the office monthly for the services it rendered at the rates set for each attorney.

“Right now, I intend to handle this matter at an hourly rate of $ 395.00 per hour,” he wrote. “Mark Allison will assist me at the same hourly rate. We may use other lawyers from our firm depending on availability in order to provide our best service to you effectively and efficiently. Our other billing practices are described in the billing statement. and the terms of fees attached to this letter. “

Garrity said the contract with Dover Dixon Horne also provided for all costs, including special postage, delivery charges, travel, processing servers and other expenses.

Bynum said the office’s power to hire outside legal counsel is granted by the Arkansas Code annotated 10-3-303 (h), which requires approval from the executive subcommittee of the Legislative Council.

Legislative Council co-chairs Senator Terry Rice, R-Waldron, and Representative Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, signed the contract on Friday, Garrity said.

House Speaker Matthew Shepherd R-El Dorado and pro tempore Senate Speaker Jimmy Hickey R-Texarkana announced on Friday that they have jointly retained Dover Dixon Horne to represent them in an official capacity in the pending litigation.

governor’s lawyer

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had earlier said the Attorney General would not represent him in the case, announced Friday that he had asked David R. Matthews of Matthews, Campbell, Rhoads, McClure & Thompson PA to Rogers to represent him in his official capacity.

In a letter dated Aug. 10 to the governor, Matthews said his attorney fees would be based on an hourly rate of $ 350 and billing would be done on a monthly basis.

“I will be happy to let you know when the fee approaches $ 25,000.00 and keep you informed of each additional $ 25,000.00 interval,” he wrote.

In addition, “you will be responsible for all costs and expenses related to this matter,” Matthews said. Those fees and expenses can include clerk fees, copying fees, postage, travel costs, processing server fees and witness fees, he said.

Hutchinson spokeswoman Shealyn Sowers said on Tuesday that “we don’t have” an estimated cost for Matthews’ contract.

The law in the case is Law 1002 of 2021, sponsored by Senator Trent Garner, R-El Dorado.

Fox’s Aug. 6 decision on Bill 1002 came hours after the Legislature adjourned a three-day special session called by Hutchinson, who called on lawmakers to change the law so local school boards can decide whether to require pupils under 12 to wear masks. These children cannot be vaccinated against covid-19.

The Republican-dominated legislature refused to follow the Republican governor’s suggestion to change state law amid the increase in coronavirus cases in Arkansas resulting from the delta variant and the relatively low vaccination rate of the state.

Hutchinson, who has said he regrets signing Bill 1002, said on Aug.6 that his goal was not achieved by the legislature, but by Fox. He called Fox’s decision limited, well-reasoned and constitutional.

On March 30, Hutchinson announced he was lifting the state’s mask mandate, which he imposed in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fox’s decision prompted some of the state’s school districts and colleges and universities to require masks to be worn in their buildings.


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