Lipman Not Behind the Wheel of Hatch Recall Bid, He Says
Both a Mistake and Misunderstanding Are to Blame, He Says
Gazette, June 26, 2001 (this date is not certain)
102 S. 2nd Street, Stillwater, MN 55082
Tel: (651) 439-3130; Fax: (651) 439-4713
By John Klun, Gazette Staff Writer
MINNEAPOLIS Rep. Eric Lipman, D-Lake Elmo, may be
personally critical of State Attorney General Mike Hatch, but he denies any
association with a movement to oust the attorney general from office.
Both a mistake and a misunderstanding, Lipman said, are to blame for
confusion about his involvement in a recent petition to recall Hatch for his
failure to defend a sodomy law in Hennepin County District Court. The
petition, which contains 53 signatures, was espoused by the Republican Party
of Minnesota State Central Committee, of which Lipman is a former member.
Last month, District Court Judge Delila Pierce ruled that a state law
banning anal and oral sex by consenting adults violates the state
constitutions privacy laws. On June 11, law firm Mohrman & Kaardal, P.A.,
Lipmans employer, submitted the petition to recall Hatch from office, based on
the assertion that it was his responsibility to defend the law, whether he
agreed with it or not.
In a Tuesday, June 12 Minneapolis Star-Tribune article, Lipman was
named a recall advocate. The paper on WHAT DAY printed a correction.
Its a misunderstanding, Lipman said. Its been reported that I was leading
the band on this, but Im not on the pleadings.
Two documents might be responsible for the confusion: The first is a
letter, addressed to Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz,
that accompanied the petition. Signed by William F. Mohrman, the attorney
representing the petitioners, it includes Lipmans name on the letterhead.
The second is a press release sent on June 9 to the Star-Tribune by
Wersal Law Office, one of the petitioners. At the end, the press release reads
For further information, please contact Rep. Eric Lipman.
Lipmans name is printed on the law firms standard letterhead, he said, but
he is not representing the petitioners Mohrman is representing the case. That
the press release listed him as a contact, Lipman said, was a mistake.
Wersel made a mistake, he said, and hes admitted it. He used my name
without my permission.
When first contacted by the Gazette, Wersel declined comment without first
talking with Lipman. He later said I think its a misunderstanding.
Wersal has had a longstanding relationship with Mohrman & Kaardal,
P.A., he said, and he originally thought Lipman was going to be the primary
representative in the case. Furthermore, he said, Lipman advised him on the
nitty-gritty details about requesting a recall from the Secretary of States
Office. Lipman is a former deputy secretary of state.
When I initially put out that press release, Wersal said, I was working
quite a bit with Eric Lipman. I thought he was going to be the attorney, but
Mohrman took it.
Although Lipman denies involvement in the recall request, and did not sign
the petition himself, he did express some sentiment that he agrees with the
petitioners. The petition is not about the sodomy law, he said, its about
Hatchs rights and responsibilities as attorney general.
In Mohrmans request for recall consideration, he wrote, Attorney General
Hatch failed to assert a number of usual and customary defenses defenses that
those who litigate against the State of Minnesota routinely, ordinarily see
the Attorney General interpose in pleadings.
According to Lipman, Hatch overstepped his authority by choosing not to
defend the sodomy law.
The question is not whether I agree with the sodomy law, he said. Its
whether what he did was minimally sufficient. From my perspective, his actions
make him a fourth branch of government.
Lipman clarified in written correspondence that his sentiments were based
on the legal issue of Hatchs responsibilities, not on the act of sodomy:
In recent weeks, I have thought a lot, about the law that makes acts of
sodomy a crime in Minnesota, he wrote. While I was not in the Legislature in
either 1997 or 1999 when efforts to repeal this law were made, I have been
reviewing the audio tapes of those debates, and actively considering voting in
favor of repeal if the matter is raised again in the 2002 Session. (This is a
whole different discussion ) I am still researching the legislative history on
those amendments and genuinely considering this option.
Leslie Sandberg, Hatchs press secretary, was brief in her response to the
petition for Hatchs recall:
Despite the best efforts of State Representative Eric Lipman, Greg Wersal
and the Republican State Central Committee, the Attorney Generals Office views
Doe v. Ventura as a legal matter, not a political one, she wrote in an
e-mail. Moreover, as former President Ronald Reagan once said, never respond
to paid political complainers.
If Blatz decides the grounds for recall meet statutory requirements,
another petition containing 25 percent of the votes cast for Hatchs office
will be required within 90 days. That would require 502,000 signatures. This
requirement having been met, the governor would set a date for a recall
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