AUGUSTA – The lawyer for Gov. Paul LePage is calling on the court to dismiss a lawsuit House Speaker Mark Eves filed against the governor, saying the dispute may only be resolved by voters, not the courts.

Eves’ lawsuit accuses the Republican governor of violating the rights of the Democratic speaker by pressuring a charter school into rescinding a job offer. LePage “blackmailed” the Good Will-Hinckley school in Fairfield by threatening to withhold state funds if it hired him as president, Eves said.

LePage filed a motion in federal court in January to dismiss the lawsuit. The governor’s lawyer on Wednesday filed a rebuttal to Eves’ arguments that LePage is using state money to entice political loyalty and punish his enemies.

LePage’s lawyer, Patrick Strawbridge, said the governor objected to Eves’ appointment because of his lack of qualifications, not party affiliation.

“The issues in this case can be addressed through the political process by the people of Maine,” Strawbridge wrote, “or perhaps in a contract action between the Speaker and his former employer.”

Strawbridge said that the government speech doctrine in constitutional law protects the governor’s right to speak about a proposed state budget. He said the governor has “absolute immunity” related to statements or actions regarding funds that have yet to be appropriated by the Legislature.

Eves’ attorney, David Webbert, said in a statement Friday said that LePage should not hide behind an immunity shield, but instead defend his actions in open court before a jury.

“The governor’s brief doubles down on the false and dangerous view that the governor is above the law and that there are no limits on what he can do to punish his political opponents,” he said.

Oral arguments are expected to be scheduled in coming weeks in U.S District Court in Portland.

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