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PA Senate President Appeals Decision Ordering Him To Pay 29K

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) -- Lawyers for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati have filed an appeal to a federal court decision that the Republican must personally pay more than $29,000 for legal fees in a high-profile redistricting case.

The GOP lawmaker officially has 14 days to pay--but his chief counsel said he has no intention of doing so.

The case in question was initially brought to the Commonwealth Court last summer by the League of Women Voters, who argued the state congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

In November, Scarnati argued it was a federal matter, and removed it to a federal district court, where it was assigned to Judge Michael Baylson.

Now, Baylson has concurred with the League's claim that Scarnati acted inappropriately and owes them legal fees.

Their counsel--largely based in Washington D.C.--had done the legal work pro bono. But the League plaintiffs argued they should be compensated at their regular rate because "it would have been impossible to engage other counsel on such short notice."

In his decision, Baylson wrote that while the court "will ignore the political considerations that may have been motivating various parties," it's clear that "legitimate grounds for removal [of the case from Commonwealth Court] did not exist...and also, the removal was untimely."

Essentially, Baylson is saying that Scarnati's decision violated procedural rules and came too late after the case's initial filing to be considered appropriate.

Drew Crompton, Scarnati's longtime Chief Counsel, said it is "absurd" to hold a lawmaker personally responsible for costs incurred in his official capacity.

"I mean we're troubled by it," he said. "It seems very vindictive. But we'll work through it. I think it will be reversed. I'm more confident in this case than most."

Crompton added, he doesn't know of any precedent for an official having to personally pay for legal fees incurred over the course of non-illegal work done in his elected capacity.

"I told the caucus today, I've been handling cases for 25 years in the Senate, and not only has it never occurred, it hasn't even been a possibility, generally," Crompton said.