By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — The Legislative Research Commission must pay $186,855 in legal fees incurred by House Republicans and Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein, who successfully challenged the redrawing of legislative district boundaries earlier this year, a judge ruled Thursday.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd gave the LRC 30 days to appeal his ruling or pay the $112,375 legal bill for House Republicans and the $74,480 bill for Sen. Kathy Stein’s legal team.
Bobby Sherman, executive director of the LRC, said he will seek guidance on the matter from legislative leaders. Sherman said a full meeting of the LRC, which is made up of House and Senate leaders, has not been set for December.
“I will be talking to legislative leaders in the next few days about what they would like to do,” Sherman said.
If leaders decide to pay the legal bill, Sherman said, there is enough money available in the legislature’s budget to cover the cost.
The legal bills for the fight over legislative redistricting now top $206,000. In June, former Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, decided to pay the Legislative Research Commission’s legal bill of $19,758 to defend the lawsuit. Williams has since resigned from the Senate.
House Republicans and Stein successfully challenged new legislative maps that were approved early this year by the Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the maps were not properly drawn and upheld a temporary injunction to stop lawmakers from moving Stein’s district in Fayette County to northeastern Kentucky.
Shepherd ruled in August that the LRC should have to pay the opposing sides’ legal fees. He ordered the two sides to complete negotiations over the amount of the legal bills by Aug. 30. Those negotiations stalled, and the matter was sent back to Shepherd.
Stumbo said Thursday that he doesn’t think taxpayer money should be used to pay the challengers’ legal fees. He said House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, failed to provide the employment contract Republicans had with their attorneys.
“The taxpayers should not be asked to pay more than the parties were obligated to. It smells. No, it stinks to high heavens,” Stumbo said in a written statement.
Hoover’s office referred questions to Jason Nemes, one of the lawyers that represented House Republicans. Nemes declined to comment.
Shepherd, in his ruling, said attorneys for House Republicans and Stein had supplied the court with a detailed accounting of their fees. He declared them to be reasonable.
Hoover said in February that he wanted to raise money privately to pay for his caucuses’ challenge to the maps. Stumbo has said he expects Hoover to keep his word and not use taxpayer dollars to pay for the legal challenge.
The legislature is expected to again tackle legislative redistricting in the 2013 General Assembly, which begins in January.