If you’ve been reading my ongoing legal analysis of the constitutional showdown between Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark and State Attorney General Rob McKenna (here and here), you should find little surprising in the petition filed today on behalf of Goldmark.
In Section VI of the petition, titled “The Attorney General Has a Statutory Mandate to Represent the Commissioner of Public Lands and to File the Appeal at His Behest,” Goldmark’s attorney David Bricklin makes the same general argument I made (though embarrassingly, more concisely), citing many of the same statutes and case law. His conclusion?
Apparently, the Attorney General believes he has discretion to ignore the request of the Commissioner of Public Lands based on his view of what will serve the public interest. The Attorney General lacks the authority to make policy decisions or to decide, unilaterally, what is in the “public interest.” In this State, the Attorney General only has such authority as is prescribed to that office by the Constitution and the statutes implementing the Constitution. Unlike some other states, the Attorney General has no “common law” authority. He only has such authority as is prescribed to him by statute.
[…] In sum, the Attorney General has a non-discretionary duty to represent the Commissioner of Public Lands and to file and vigorously prosecute the appeal as requested by the Commissioner of Public Lands. This Court should issue a writ of mandamus directing the Attorney General to do so or, in the alternative, ordering the Attorney General to appoint a Special Assistant Attorney General to do so.
Like I said, you read it here first.
But as much as I’d love to pat myself on the back for my brilliant legal analysis, as Bricklin states in his section requesting reimbursement of attorneys’ fees, there’s really “no reasonable basis for contending otherwise”:
RCW 4.84.185 allows a prevailing party to recover attorneys’ fees and other litigation expenses if the defense to the action was “frivolous and advanced without reasonable cause.” We have not yet seen the Attorney General’s defense to this Petition, but if it is the same as has been advanced by the Attorney General in the run up to this litigation, we believe an award of litigation fees and costs under RCW 4.84.185 will be justified. The constitutional and statutory provisions at issue here are unambiguous. The duty of the Attorney General to represent the petitioner and his agency is unqualified. The Attorney General has no reasonable basis for contending otherwise. Reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs should be awarded.
Hear that? In requesting reimbursement of legal fees, Bricklin is inherently calling McKenna’s claims “frivolous.” So if Goldmark wins, and Bricklin’s fees are reimbursed, what will this say about the legal acumen — and/or ethics — of our state’s top lawyer?