State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

For marriage law defense, administration defends outside hire

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 8, 2013 10:17 PM

The Corbett administration is getting some help from the outside to defend Pennsylvania's marriage law in federal court.

William Lamb, a former state Supreme Court justice, has been picked to join the administration's defense team, at a rate of $400 an hour. Associates with his West Chester firm, Lamb McErlane, will be hired at an hourly rate of $325.

"In most normal circumstances, this type of a constitutional case would be handled by the Office of Attorney General," said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for the governor's Office of General Counsel. "The Attorney General's office has an entire division of its office, the civil law division, which just deals with these types of constitutional matters."

The state attorney general, Kathleen Kane, has said she will not defend Pennsylvania's marriage law on the grounds that she believes it is unconstitutional and can delegate its defense to the governor's office.

Hagen-Frederiksen said there is no cap on spending for outside counsel because it's "driven by cases."

"We don't have a fixed amount for outside counsel," Hagen-Frederiksen said. "We're doing our best to reduce the amount for outside counsel year in and year out."

The firm reportedly gave tens of thousands of dollars to Tom Corbett's political campaigns going back to his time as a state attorney general candidate. Hagen-Frederiksen says political donations are not considered in the hiring of outside counsel.

"The only factors that weigh into when and if a firm, any firm, is retained by the Office of General Counsel is what's in the best interests of a particular case," he said.

Lamb will help defend the commonwealth in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in July against the law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The case is separate from a lawsuit over marriage licenses being issued to same-sex couples by a Montgomery County court official.

This post has been edited to reflect the fact that the Attorney General's office is not defending Pennsylvania's marriage law.

 

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