- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - An appeal of a federal judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit that accused Republican Gov. Paul LePage of abuse of power and blackmail will continue through the summer with legal briefs and another round of oral arguments.

A briefing schedule from the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston indicates the appeal will play out over the next several months. Briefs will be filed through mid-August before oral arguments are scheduled, said a lawyer for Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, the filer of the lawsuit.

Eves’ lawsuit accused LePage of using blackmail to force a charter school operator to rescind a job offer to him, and it sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The judge dismissed the lawsuit this month, and Eves appealed.

Eves said Monday he’s not giving up on his lawsuit against LePage because he wants to make sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to someone else.

“I keep fighting because I know anyone could be next,” said Eves, of North Berwick. “Every Mainer should have the right to express their political views in our democracy without losing their job or the ability to provide for their family.”

LePage’s foes contend his interference with Eves’ job offer was part of a pattern of bullying and abuse. The governor insisted he was the victim of a “witch hunt.” The governor’s office had no immediate comment on Monday.

Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills said there was no evidence that LePage committed a crime when he pressured Good Will-Hinckley, an organization that serves at-risk young people and runs a charter school, to rescind the job offer to Eves.

But the flap had political implications, leading to an attempt to impeach the governor that fell short in the Democrat-controlled House.

Eves’ lawyer, David Webbert, said he always felt the lawsuit would be decided on appeal. A three-judge panel is expected to consider the appeal.

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Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-sharp.

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