How Much Does It Cost to Install a Lieutenant Governor?

Quinn logo.jpgQuinn Emanuel was instrumental in clarifying the New York State Constitution to allow Governor David Paterson the power to appoint a Lieutenant Governor — the post now being filled by Richard Ravitch. The firm would like $1 million for its counsel.
For those of you not steeped in the murky underworld of New York state politics, here’s a quick recap. Then-Governor Eliot Spitzer banged a prostitute. Lieutenant Governor David Paterson ascended to the top spot, and longtime Republican leader Joseph Bruno became acting Lieutenant Governor. That didn’t last long as the Democrats took control of the state senate by a slim majority, and Bruno resigned under the cloud of scandal (Bruno has since been convicted on charges of corruption). The New York State Senate exploded when two Democrats — Pedro Espada Jr and Hiram Monserrate — switched sides to join the Republicans and their new leader, Dean Skelos. At the time, Monserrate was facing charges of slashing his girlfriend’s face after spying another man’s business card in her purse. He was later convicted of misdemeanor assault, but cleared of the felony charges. In any event, Monserrat changed his mind and went back to the Dems, leaving the state senate deadlocked with 31 democrats and 30 republicans plus Pedro Espada. Espada was elevated to president of the Senate (turncoats gotta eat) and claimed that as president of the Senate he was acting Lieutenant Governor. Alright guys, I’m not gonna lie to you. This is gonna get kinda weird: Espada claimed he should have two votes.
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Paterson announced he would be appointing a Lieutenant Governor. And that’s where Quinn Emanuel steps into this morass of prostitute banging corrupt girlfriend beaters.

Paterson proposed Richard Ravitch as an “honest broker” type of Lieutenant Governor that could bridge the partisan divide. But it wasn’t entirely clear that Paterson had the authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor. As Toby Ziegler might say, executive authority is an area of the law where you want to have as much ambiguity as possible.
So Paterson hired the fine lawyers at Quinn Emanuel to resolve the Constitutional question:

After setbacks at the Supreme Court and Appellate Division, the Quinn Emanuel team convinced the Court of Appeals that Mr. Paterson was within his powers to appoint Mr. Ravitch to the lieutenant governor’s job that Mr. Paterson vacated when he became governor in March 2008 (NYLJ, Sept. 23).

Now, Quinn wants to be paid. But Quinn Emanuel is offering New York State a major discount for helping the state work through its (honestly pathetic) gap in constitutional clarity:

Mr. Paterson’s spokesman Peter Kaufman said Friday that the request for the $1 million payment by the governor’s chief counsel, Peter Kiernan, was filed with the state comptroller’s office on behalf of Quinn Emanuel and its attorneys Kathleen M. Sullivan, Faith E. Gay and Robert Juman. In it, Mr. Kiernan said that Quinn Emanuel had “unique experience, expertise and capacity” to handle the complex case and the constitutional questions involved in it. The request does not detail the hours worked by individual lawyers or others, but said 23 “professionals” worked “around the clock” between July 7 and Sept. 22 to meet court deadlines and prepare the litigation, Mr. Kiernan said. …
Ms. Sullivan, in a letter to Mr. Kiernan accompanying the firm’s request, said the $1 million payment represented a flat fee agreement between the firm and the governor’s office. “The flat fee…represents a substantial discount from the fees normally charged by our firm,” Ms. Sullivan wrote. “We greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve the Governor and his Counsel in this matter.”

I can’t imagine the summer fire drill attorneys at Quinn went through to get this done, but I’m sure it was worth more than $1 million. At least it would have been in a normal economy.
Still, some feel Paterson shouldn’t have spent so much on fancy outside counsel:

A spokesman for Senate Republican Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, criticized Mr. Paterson’s arrangement with Quinn Emanuel. “The governor employs an army of well-paid lawyers, yet he had to outsource his legal counsel on this case and waste $1 million taxpayer dollars,” spokesman Mark Hansen said Friday. “He clearly has his priorities all wrong.”
Mr. Skelos, who challenged Mr. Paterson’s appointment of Mr. Ravitch in court, used Republican Senate staff attorneys David L. Lewis and John Ciampoli (NYLJ, July 24). Mr. Hansen said neither Mr. Lewis, who makes $100,723 in the Senate, nor Mr. Ciampoli, who makes $62,262, received additional compensation for litigating the case.

To paraphrase a certain Quinn Emanuel partner: if the Republicans has hired Quinn Emanuel, Paterson would have lost his case. But the Republicans didn’t hire Quinn Emanuel, they went with somebody else. So it was incumbent upon Quinn Emanuel to kick their ass in court. It is really that simple.
Honestly, $1 million sounds like a huge discount for litigating a state constitutional crisis in real time. Remember the state senate was essentially refusing to show up for work until this thing was resolved.
It’s not Quinn’s fault that the New York State government can’t get its head of its ass. If taxpayers want to bitch about it, they should consider showing up on Election Day and voting the whole, ineffective lot of them out of office. In the meantime, show Quinn the money.
Quinn Emanuel Requests $1 Million for Ravitch Case [New York Law Journal]

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