LGBT — April 11, 2015 at 10:36 am

With 100+ staff lawyers, Michigan AG Schuette still spending $50K to hire another one for same-sex marriage ban SCOTUS case


Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is our state’s top lawyer. He bragged about his legal acumen during his 2014 campaign. He also has over 100 Assistant Attorneys General on his staff. So, as Schuette prepares to defend our state’s ban on same-sex marriages before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), you would assume that he would be well-positioned in terms of lawyers to take on that task.

You would be wrong about that, apparently. This past week we learned that Schuette is hiring on yet another attorney, John Bursch of Schuette’s former employer Warner Norcross & Judd, to argue the case before the SCOTUS. And Bursch will make up to $50,000 for the single case:

John Bursch (left), Michigan’s solicitor general from 2011 to 2013, rejoined Grand Rapids-based Warner Norcross last year as a partner. After the Supreme Court accepted the challenge to the Michigan law and three similar cases this term, Warner Norcross’ management committee voted to stay out of the litigation, according to Douglas Wagner, the firm’s managing partner.

“We refused to take the case when it was tendered to us,” Wagner told The National Law Journal this week. “It’s one of those issues where I think there are strong emotions on both sides. With over 7,000 active clients and almost 500 people at the firm, we’ve got people on both sides of the issue.”

A majority of Warner Norcross’ 120-lawyer partnership agreed to allow Bursch to take the case on his own, without using firm resources, Wagner said. Bursch remains co-chairman of the firm’s appellate litigation. […]

Michigan will pay Bursch $300 an hour, up to $50,000, as a special assistant attorney general, according to his contract with the state. His contract ends July 31. (An earlier version of the contract, provided to the NLJ by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, set the cap at $75,000 and said the term of employment ends in September.)

Schuette himself makes $112,410 a year so Bursch will make nearly half Schuette’s salary for just four months of work. It’s astonishing to think that with 100+ lawyers working for him, Schuette couldn’t find someone on his staff to do the job and save taxpayers some money. Or Schuette himself, someone who bragged endlessly about his legal experience during the campaign, could do the job. He is, after all, our state’s Number One attorney.

Instead, our state government is once again outsourcing, this bringing in a private-practice lawyer to do the job Schuette himself was hired to do. And this is on top of the untold amount of taxpayer funds Schuette has wasted on this effort to preserve bigotry in our state by continuing to deny marriage equality to a sizable segment of our citizens.