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Colorado 'Hamilton electors' lawsuits cost taxpayers nearly $40K in legal fees

Posted: 4:00 PM, Jan 27, 2017
Updated: 2017-01-28 06:26:18Z

DENVER – Colorado taxpayers paid nearly $40,000 in lawyers’ fees in the court battles that surrounded two Democratic Colorado electors who unsuccessfully fought the state law that required them to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Electors Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich fought the state law, which requires electors to cast their electoral ballot for the candidate that won the state’s popular vote, in federal court – first in U.S. District Court of Colorado , then in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals once their initial request for an injunction was denied.

The Colorado Secretary of State also filed suit against Baca and Nemanich in Denver District Court in order to have a judge clarify the legal ramifications the electors would face should they either not take the oath of office for electors or fail to follow state rules in casting their votes.

Baca and Nemanich were among a group of so-called “Hamilton Electors” across the country who argued that state laws telling electors who to vote for were unconstitutional. The movement was aimed at getting Republican electors not to vote for Donald Trump and electors in states without binding rules to cast their vote for someone else as well.

In the end, fewer than 10 electoral votes nationally were cast for a candidate not named Trump or Clinton.

One of them was from Micheal Baca of Denver, who took the oath of office but “wrote in” John Kasich’s name on the ballot , thus invalidating it and opening the door for his possible prosecution.  He was replaced after failing to adhere to his oath, and all of Colorado's votes ended up going to Clinton as mandated by the state law.

LAWYERS’ FEES ADD UP, BUT NOT OUT OF ORDINARY

Some readers had asked how much lawyers’ fees for the state would cost because of the court fights. The state’s attorneys were provided through the Attorney General’s Office and were used by the attorney general, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Secretary of State Wayne Williams in the cases. Williams was the only plaintiff in the suit asking Denver District Court for guidance.

Attorneys’ fees for various cases each office appears in court for are tabulated at the end of each month. The Secretary of State’s Office provided the figures to Denver7 Thursday after they were requested in December.

In both cases, the attorneys billed the state at $98.26 an hour.

Defense fees in the federal case amounted to a total of $9,213.44 in December for the federal case for the Secretary of State’s Office, which said its fees were one-third of the total fees. The Attorney General’s Office and Governor’s Office were both billed the same amount, leading to a total of $27,640.32 charged to taxpayers for 93.77 hours of attorneys’ work.

In the Denver case in which the Secretary of State’s Office was the only plaintiff, the office was billed for 107.7 hours at $98.26 an hour, equaling $10,582.59. It was also billed $23.12 for paralegal and investigator services, bringing the total bill for that case to $10,605.71.

Those two figures combined mean taxpayers paid $38,246.03 in December for the elector court cases.

To put that in context, the Secretary of State’s Office was billed a total of $136,955.55 in December alone, meaning state taxpayers likely pay millions in attorneys’ fees for various agencies and offices each year.

There are likely to be some minimal additional fees in January as well, as the federal case remains open in the U.S. District Court of Colorado pending the resolution of a motion filed Jan. 12 by the state to stay discovery and disclosures in the case.

Lawyers for Baca and Nemanich were granted an unopposed motion to dismiss their appeal in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals two days earlier.

The investigation into Micheal Baca’s actions also remains pending, though there are few instances of “faithless electors” who violated state elector law ever being prosecuted in the U.S.

Messages sent Friday to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office asking whether Baca would be prosecuted went unreturned.

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