A federal judge on Tuesday scheduled the first oral arguments in the lawsuit by House Speaker Mark Eves against Gov. Paul LePage, which accuses the governor of illegally using taxpayer money and the power of the state’s highest office to prevent Eves from getting a school administrator’s job.

Judge George Singal will hear from lawyers for the two sides in U.S. District Court in Portland on April 1 on LePage’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that his role as the state’s chief executive grants him immunity and that he is otherwise protected by his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Until this point, the two sides have gone back and forth in written filings to the court without having to appear in court.

Neither LePage nor Eves is required to appear in court for the in-person arguments, though they may. The judge allotted 30 minutes each for LePage’s lawyer, Patrick Strawbridge, and Eves’ lawyer, David Webbert, to speak.

The lawsuit accuses LePage of violating Eves’ rights by using intimidation to prevent Eves’ hiring as president of Good Will-Hinckley, a private school in Fairfield that operates a charter school partly funded by the state.

Eves claims that Good Will-Hinckley’s board of directors voted June 24 to rescind its offer to hire him as president only after LePage threatened to eliminate $530,000 in state funding for the school.

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