AUGUSTA – The Maine Supreme Judicial Court announced Monday that it will expedite Gov. Paul LePage’s request to determine whether he can still veto 65 bills that legislative officers already have written into law.

The court, in a procedural order released Monday afternoon, said that it will accept written arguments in the case through Friday and will hear oral arguments a week later, on July 31.

LePage on Friday asked the state’s top court to intervene in the dispute through what’s known as a solemn occasion.

In the procedural order it released Monday, the court invited lawyers to submit briefs addressing two points: whether the dispute LePage seeks to resolve constitutes a solemn occasion; and on matters of law related to LePage’s questions about whether he can still veto the 65 bills.

If the court determines a solemn occasion exists, it will then rule on the governor’s veto request.

The stakes are high for the governor, who faces the prospect of losing a battle that could cost him politically. Among the newly chaptered laws are proposals that the governor and his supporters vehemently oppose, including General Assistance for asylum seekers, expanded use of a medication to treat drug overdoses and birth control for MaineCare recipients. If the court rules against LePage, or declines to intervene, those bills will remain law because the governor and his staff either misinterpreted the Maine Constitution or gambled and lost in pursuit of the goal of keeping lawmakers at the State House through the summer.


LePage has acknowledged that he issued a historic number of vetoes – nearly 170 this session – as retribution for lawmakers rejecting most of his policy initiatives. The Legislature has overturned more than 120 of the vetoes this session.

His political team appears to recognize the risk of losing the dispute. Last week, LePage’s advisers used a Facebook post to urge his supporters to call state lawmakers and tell them to accept his 65 vetoes on the final day of the legislative session. Lawmakers refused, arguing that the governor had run out of time.

“You cannot veto a law,” House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said in a statement Thursday. “This legislation is already law, in accordance with the Constitution, history and precedent. The governor’s veto attempts are out of order and in error. He missed the deadline to veto the bills.”

The 65 bills were among a group of 70 that most legislative leaders and Attorney General Janet Mills say have become law because LePage missed his 10-day window for acting on them. Each piece of legislation has been written into law by the Legislature’s Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

LePage disagrees, and Friday he submitted his request to the state’s top court.

“Now that the Legislature has refused to consider the vetoes, my constitutional duty as governor to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ is in question,” LePage said in the request. “I must know whether my vetoes stand.”


LePage’s request asking the court to declare a solemn occasion, which is designed to settle disputes between the legislative and executive branches, is the second he has made this year.

Though it’s unclear how quickly the court will act, earlier this year justices took less than two weeks after hearing oral arguments to issue an opinion on another solemn occasion request from LePage related to a conflict with Mills.

In addition to the procedural outline, the court filed a disclosure document signed by Chief Justice Leigh Saufley on Monday that detailed the judges’ “significant institutional relationships with the governor, the Maine Legislature and the Department of Attorney General.”

The governor nominates, appoints and reappoints Maine judges. Judicial appointments are vetted and confirmed by the Legislature. Both the governor and the Legislature play key roles in drafting and approving the budget for the judiciary.

“Each of the six undersigned Justices has concluded that she or he can be fair and impartial in the matter pending before the Court and that the matters addressed herein do not require recusal,” Saufley wrote. One of the seven justices, Jeffrey L. Hjelm, did not sign the disclosure, implying he will not hear the case.

Hjelm and Thomas E. Humphrey were both nominated by LePage.


The Attorney’s General Office will file a brief, but doesn’t know who will make the oral argument, spokesman Timothy Feeley said in an email Monday night. Mills issued a non-binding opinion on July 11 that said the bills had become law.

LePage contends that he was prevented from returning the 70 bills to the Legislature when it adjourned June 30. He says that adjournment triggered a constitutional provision that allows a governor to hold bills until the Legislature reconvenes for three consecutive days.

Mills and legislative leaders counter that it was clear on June 30 that the Legislature was recessing and intended to reconvene on July 16 to take up the governor’s vetoes. Mills also has argued that the Legislature determines when it adjourns, not the governor.

The governor is asking the court to define the type of adjournment that prevents bills from being returned, whether the Legislature’s action on June 30 triggered the provision allowing him to hold bills until lawmakers had reconvened for three days, and whether the 65 bills he tried to return were properly considered by the Legislature.

Unless the Maine Supreme Judicial Court sides with LePage, the bills that have become law will remain in force.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.