Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald promised “some type of limitation” Monday on how much it will cost taxpayers for GOP state lawmakers to hire one of the nation’s top attorneys to file a legal brief in Wisconsin’s ongoing fight over redistricting.
Details about the hiring of attorney Paul Clement to file a friend-of-the-court brief for Republican state lawmakers will be released in a letter that’s still being drafted, Fitzgerald told reporters.
Fitzgerald and other Republican leaders last week approved a blank check to hire two law firms to prepare a friend-of-the-court brief for the Legislature in the legal battle that could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fitzgerald said Monday that Clement would be the lead attorney. Fitzgerald said he did not know how much would be paid to Clement, who is in the Washington office of the law firm Kirkland and Ellis, or other attorneys, including from the Madison-based law firm of Bell Giftos St. John.
Clement has argued 85 cases before the Supreme Court, including multiple redistricting cases. He was also the NFL’s attorney in the “Deflategate” case involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
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.
Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel is defending the state Elections Commission, but not lawmakers, in the case. Fitzgerald said the Legislature needed to hire its own attorney to urge the Supreme Court to take the case and overturn the three-judge panel’s ruling.
“Who’s telling our story? Who’s telling about the havoc this could create on the legislative body to suddenly order maps to be redrawn?” Fitzgerald said.
The three-judge panel ordered the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature to draw new maps by November so the existing boundaries would not be in effect for the 2018 elections.
“If courts are going to take over map drawing and take it away from the legislative branch, then they have to get ready to be drawing maps always and often,” Fitzgerald said.
He said the Wisconsin case was a “big deal” that could elicit briefs from as many as 30 other states.
He called Clement the nation’s leading redistricting attorney. Clement’s experience arguing redistricting cases before the Supreme Court includes ones involving maps drawn in Virginia, North Carolina and Arizona.