Rep. Sharon Treat (D-Hallowell) has left Maine taxpayers on the hook for $680,000 worth of legal expenses stemming from a bill she advanced in 2007 that was has been struck down as unconstitutional.
On September 28, the United States District Court for the District of Maine ordered the State of Maine to pay $678,190 in attorney’s fees as a result of IMS v. Rowe. An “Act To Amend the Prescription Privacy Law,” passed in 2007 under the former Baldacci Administration, was found to be unconstitutional.
Treat sponsored LD 838 in the 123rd Legislature, which was merged into another bill, LD 4, and passed in June of 2007. The combined bills, pushed aggressively in the Legislature by Treat, tried to stop private businesses from obtaining information about the prescribing practices of doctors.
Before the Legislature passed the Maine version of the law, New Hampshire’s version had already been declared unconstitutional by a district court.
The law prohibited prescription information records that contain patient or prescriber-identifiable data from being used for most commercial purposes.
Ultimately, in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc., the United States Supreme Court struck down the Vermont version of the law, citing First Amendment concerns. With that precedent, Maine’s law was also struck down and the court required Maine to pay the attorney’s fees of the law’s challengers.
That amount, $678,189.64, was paid late last week in advance of an October 28, deadline.
IMS Health, the company that ultimately challenged Maine’s law in court, testified against it in late March of 2007, noting that there was a pending court case against similar legislation in New Hampshire and that a decision was expected soon. IMS also noted that 11 of 12 states that considered a similar law rejected it.
On April 30, 2007, a federal district court handed down a decision (490 F.Supp.2d 163. 2007) that found the New Hampshire legislation violated the First Amendment. LD 838 was not enacted until June 15, 2007.
“Rep. Sharon Treat and the Democrat-controlled Legislature were on notice about the constitutional problems with this bill,” said Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen. “Instead of pausing to let the courts finish their work, they pushed this bill through and now we are all paying for it.”
The outcome, including a $680,000 bill left at the taxpayers’ doorstep, was completely foreseeable. In a 6-3 decision where even Justices Scalia and Sotomayor found agreement, the Supreme Court struck down a Vermont law that was similar to the one in Maine and New Hampshire. As a result, Rep. Treat’s law was declared unconstitutional by a lower court.
Since the state was on the losing end of a First Amendment claim, it had to pay a fee order of $678,189.64 to cover the costs incurred by IMS Health. This does not include the state resources that went into defending the unconstitutional law.
“Rep. Treat’s poor judgment and her impulsive quest for a legislative victory put Maine taxpayers on the hook once again,” added Sorensen. “As if we needed another reason to keep the Democrats out of the majority, here we have another instance of their mismanagement of state government coming back to haunt us.”