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Lisa Madigan cites 'no conflict,' plans to represent Topinka in legislative pay lawsuit as first court hearing looms

SPRINGFIELD-Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office confirmed Monday it will have a direct role in the legal dispute over Gov. Pat Quinn’s move to cut legislative salaries despite her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, being a plaintiff in the case.

The three-term attorney general will represent Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in the case that pits her and Quinn against the House speaker and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who sued the governor and comptroller.

“There’s not a conflict of interest because of the familial relationship,” said Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for the attorney general. “[Cullerton and Speaker Madigan] filed in their official capacity as the legislative leaders, so there is no conflict.”

The case is scheduled for its first hearing Tuesday before Cook County Associate Judge Neil Cohen, who is being asked to grant a preliminary injunction that would set aside Quinn’s line-item veto and authorize Topinka to resume paying legislators, who missed their first paychecks last week.

In early July, Quinn used his line-item veto authority to zero out legislators’ salaries and pledge not to take a paycheck himself in a bid to force a resolution to years of legislative stalemate that have blocked a pension-reform package from reaching his desk.

“Not only is the governor’s action to suspend the appropriation clearly within the express provisions of the Illinois Constitution, but the idea that anybody should be paid in Springfield when Illinois has a $100 billion pension cloud hanging over us is unfathomable,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said in a prepared statement Monday.

But on the question of whether Quinn’s move is legal, Cullerton and the speaker have maintained just the opposite and are pointing to a constitutional provision that prohibits changing legislative salaries during a lawmaker’s term in office.

Topinka has argued that she can’t issue any paychecks for legislators without an appropriation and said the state’s judiciary will have to intervene to resolve the constitutional standoff between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Bauer sidestepped the question of whether her office, on behalf of Topinka, would weigh in on the constitutionality of Quinn’s move, saying only, “Our stance and legal analysis has shown the paychecks can’t be cut until an appropriation is made or there is a court order.”

Quinn, meanwhile, opted against having his office be represented by the attorney general, who had stood as a potential 2014 primary opponent until pulling her name out of consideration for governor last month.

The attorney general granted permission to have Quinn be represented by lawyer Steven Pflaum and attorneys from the firm, Neil Gerber & Eisenberg LLP. The governor’s office handpicked the lawyers it wished to represent him in the case.