By Associated Press - Thursday, June 20, 2019

BOSTON (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled in favor of Maine’s former Republican Gov. Paul LePage in a lawsuit accusing him of abuse of power.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said Wednesday that LePage has immunity from a claim that he discriminated against former Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves on the basis of political affiliation. The court affirmed the dismissal of Eves’ federal and state claims.

LePage’s lawyer said Thursday the Republican is pleased to put the matter behind him. Eves’ attorney, David Webbert, said he hasn’t decided on a next step in the lawsuit.

Eves has waged several court battles contending LePage overstepped his authority when he used a threat to withhold funding to force charter school operator Good Will-Hinckley to rescind a job offer.

The revelations roiled the statehouse and propelled an unsuccessful effort by Democrats to impeach the outspoken former governor, who dismissed the attempt as “nonsense” and “foolishness.” LePage had argued he didn’t think taxpayer funds should go to a person “who has fought so hard against charter schools.”

Eves countered that LePage just didn’t like his politics, and that such a politically motivated maneuver violates his constitutional rights.

But the court’s opinion said the Supreme Court has long held that policymakers can be let go from their position because of their politics.

The court said that even if LePage was wrong about the law, such a mistake would be “reasonable” and not enough to take away his immunity as a government official. It’s not up to federal courts to weigh in on whether LePage’s past actions were right or wrong, argued the opinion.

The judges, however, didn’t come to a conclusion about LePage’s argument that the governor has “absolute immunity.”

And some of the court’s judges said the lawsuit should be a lesson for public officials going forward. Three judges in a concurring opinion said the whole matter would have been different if Eves was accepting a job that didn’t involve policy-making.

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