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Constitutional Defense Council could convene to pay legal-fees bill

When the Idaho Legislature appropriated $1 million to the state Constitutional Defense Fund this year, some protested that they didn’t want to put that much money toward litigation against gay marriage. The money wasn’t tabbed for any particular case; it merely refilled the fund that, by law, can be spent “to examine and challenge, by legal action or legislation, federal mandates, court rulings, and authority of the federal government, or any activity that threatens the sovereignty and authority of the state and the well-being of its citizens.”

The fund has “historically been used to pay legal settlements (primarily attorney fees) that have been awarded through the courts,” according to state budget documents. Now that a federal court has ordered the state of Idaho to pay $401,663 in attorney fees and costs to the prevailing side in the same-sex marriage case, the fund is likely to be tapped for that purpose.

“I don’t know that we’ll have to have a meeting before the legislative session begins, but I assume that the council will take it up to discuss whether to pay that out of the Constitutional Defense Fund or not,” said Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, who serves on Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council, which oversees the fund, along with House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; Idaho Gov. Butch Otter; and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “I’m sure we’ll get together to discuss it,” Hill said. “The governor has not contacted me today to arrange for a meeting. I assume I’ll hear from him or his chief of staff or his attorneys in the very near future.”

According to state law, any one of the four members of the council can call a meeting, and its decisions are by majority vote. Interest on the $401,663 judgment started accruing Friday, so the longer the state waits, the more it’ll cost.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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