Bill For Hogan Administration Litigation Over Unemployment Benefits Totals More Than $380,000

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) at a reception during the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s administration spent more than $380,000 in legal fees attempting to end expanded federal unemployment benefits in Maryland early, an invoice shows.

The 17-page invoice released Friday is dated Aug. 20 and includes $381,952.50 in legal fees, as well as $696.56 in filing fees and court costs, for a total of $382,649.06.

The invoice, from Venable LLP, was released in response to a public information request from Maryland Matters on Friday.

Parts of the invoice are redacted, but a cover page indicates that the state received an unknown discount.

Typically, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) would represent the governor in legal challenges, but he publicly disagreed with Hogan’s decision to stop unemployment benefits early.

The benefits were the subject of an intense and brisk series of court hearings around the Fourth of July. Hogan was one of several Republican governors to announce plans to end pandemic-era expansions of the federal unemployment program early.

A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge ordered that the benefits should continue on July 3, the same day they were set to expire. The court’s decision, and others, were challenged by the Hogan administration up to the Court of Appeals. Each of the appeals failed until a preliminary injunction was issued in Baltimore City Circuit Court on July 13. The Hogan administration announced after that ruling that it would not seek another appeal.

During the litigation, Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that Hogan was pursuing costly legal representation, while also ending federal payments that could bolster the state’s economy while keeping out-of-work Marylanders afloat.

Hogan contended that he was justified in ending them early because employers are having a difficult time filling vacant positions.

At least seven Venable employees spent more than 688 billable hours on the case, according to the invoice.

On Friday, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said he could not speak to the amount of the contract or its terms because it was negotiated and signed by the attorney general’s office.

Ricci also defended the Hogan administration’s policy decision to attempt to end the benefits early, before congressional funding is set to expire this weekend.

“These federal programs were doing tremendous damage to our economy and our small businesses. The White House and the U.S. Department of Labor said states could end them early. Most states followed that guidance,” Ricci said.

He also said it was Frosh’s decision to “abdicate his constitutional obligation to defend the state, leading to the hiring of outside counsel.”

The governor’s office intends for the costs to come from the Office of the Attorney General budget, Ricci said.

“His office negotiated and signed this contract, and we were not a party to it. So he should foot the bill, and working with state budget officials, we will explore all options to make that happen,” Ricci wrote in an email.

Frosh’s office responded Friday that it was “the Governor’s decision to deny benefits to those who needed them to survive,” and that the governor’s office was involved with and provided input on the decision to hire Venable.

“In early July, the Circuit Court ordered the State to continue paying benefits – a decision that Hogan appealed twice, and lost both times – confirming that Marylanders were legally entitled to them,” Maryland Attorney General’s Office Spokeswoman Aleithea Warmack said in an email. “We urged him to change course and he refused. Despite his efforts to deflect blame away from his decision, he is the reason the State incurred these expenses.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include statements from the governor’s and attorney general’s offices.

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Danielle E. Gaines
Danielle Gaines covered government and politics for Maryland Matters for two years before moving into an editing position. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post ― as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at The Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.