Mar 15 2014

A different kind of AG

Published by at 8:42 am under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Attorney general is a technical job, held only by a lawyer, which may lead you think there’s not a lot for a voter to decide between its candidates other than resume.

Not so. In deciding where to exert the state’s legal muscle and in how he evaluates a legal situation, an AG can have real impact. Idaho’s incumbent since 2002, Republican Lawrence Wasden, was a surprise: A long-time chief of staff in that office, he might have been expected to carry water for other powers at the Statehouse but instead marked out a careful but frequently gutsy course, displaying willingness to take on powers in the state when he saw reason to.

He seemed headed for a free ride in his fourth run for the office, but now has a primary challenger, Eagle attorney Chris Troupis. And that means some night-and-day voter choices lie ahead.

Note up front that Troupis is an experienced attorney of more than 30 years and evidently a capable professional. Also that judging an attorney by his clients can be unfair; representing controversial people and ideas go with the territory. And, a lot of Troupis’ law practice concerns basic business law.

But you could key his practice too (acknowledging his supporters may argue with this) to the name he long has used – “Christ” Troupis. At his announcement last week he said he’s changing that to “Chris,” because “I don’t want the election to be about my name.” He has used it for decades, though, in his law practice – it still was on its web site as of last week – and as a reference in news stories and elsewhere, and it was his ballot name when he ran for the state Senate in 2008. (In a thinly Democratic-leaning district, he pulled 42.4% of the vote.)

His law practice web site notes, about one of his higher-profile cases a decade ago, “I represented the Keep the Commandments Coalition pro bono in a lawsuit brought by the City of Boise after it denied my client’s request for an initiative election on the return of a Ten Commandments monument to Julia Davis Park.” And there was Richard Peterson v. Hewlett Packard: “I brought suit against Hewlett-Packard Co. for Federal Employment Discrimination and wrongful termination under the Civil Rights Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. My client was terminated by Hewlett-Packard for posting scriptures in his work cubicle that were critical of homosexual behavior.”

He has represented a number of anti-abortion causes, including at least one in which Wasden was named as (ex officio) defendant. In 2005 “I appeared pro bono as Amicus counsel in this action on behalf of Idaho Chooses Life Alliance. The Court declared Idaho House Bill 351 an unconstitutional infringement on abortion rights. Subsequent to this decision, I assisted Idaho lawmakers in redrafting its Parental Consent law to avoid future legal challenges.”

Cases like these seem central to his reasons now for seeking the office, given his announcement quote, “Our religious liberties are under constant assault by a national government and court system who believe they can impose their will upon the people.”

Who imposes on who? In 1989 the Los Angeles Times reported on a Troupis case involving a California man who sued a movie production company for shooting an “immoral and sinful” movie in the apartment building where he lived. Troupis argued, the Times said, that “his client’s right to privacy was jeopardized by the movie filming and that co-op owners should have been able to vote on the issue.”

On other fronts, Troupis has been the attorney for closing the Republican primary election to party members only (he succeeded there), and to allow the firing of redistricting commission members who displeased elected officials (failing on that one).

None of which is necessarily a precise prediction of a Troupis term as AG. But you do get the sense it would be a dramatic, wholesale difference from the office as run by Lawrence Wasden.

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