House Speaker Jim Weiers has obligated Arizona to pay a noted Washington attorney $910 an hour even though he has yet to get approval for that from the state.
Barrett Marson, Weiers' press aide, acknowledged Tuesday that the speaker told Ken Starr the state would pay that fee to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn lower court rulings which obligate the state to spend more money to help students learn English.
Only thing is, the Department of Administration, which is responsible for paying the court costs when the state is embroiled in litigation, has not agreed to pay anyone that much.
Agency director Bill Bell said that, at this point, the maximum fee acceptable is only $335 an hour.
Marson said Weiers believes the $575-an-hour difference is justified to get an attorney of Starr's experience, including his background arguing cases before the nation's highest court.
Marson said he believes that can be shown to the Department of Administration.
But Bell said Weiers has yet to provide such justification.
In the meantime, though, Starr has prepared a 47-page brief urging the Supreme Court to tell lower court judges, in essence, to butt out of how the Legislature funds its education programs.
And Marson would not say exactly how Weiers intends to pay Starr should the Department of Administration balk at the fee.
"We'll deal with it after that," he said.
Marson also sidestepped the question of whether Weiers would pay the difference out of close to $9 million he has tucked away in leftover funds from prior years.
"It's too early to tell," Marson said.
But Starr's petition is not the only one: Attorney Eric Bistrow, who represents state schools Superintendent Tom Horne, also has asked the Supreme Court to block lower court judges from interfering any more in how the state funds its English instruction programs.
And Bistrow said he isbeing paid $210 an hour by the state.