Gov. Mark Sanford said he will not put the state in a protracted legal fight over control of $700 million in federal stimulus money on the same day the governor received a legal setback in federal court.
A federal judge ruled Monday two lawsuits asking the state to determine if Sanford or state lawmakers control the disputed money should be decided by the S.C. Supreme Court. Sanford wanted the lawsuits heard in federal court.
He acknowledged Monday its likely he would lose the case in state court.
"We will not attempt to exercise those appeals," Sanford said. "Whatever decision (the S.C. Supreme Court) makes we will live by."
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U.S. District Judge Joe Anderson announced his ruling after a hearing in Columbia. Later Monday, Sanford, in a meeting with reporters, said he would not to file appeals in the legal battle. That means the stimulus fight could be settled before a July 1 deadline to request the money. And legal experts think Sanford will have a tough time winning in state court.
The S.C. Supreme Court last week was poised to hear a lawsuit filed by Chapin High School senior Casey Edwards and USC law student Justin Williams but was forced to cancel the Thursday hearing after Sanford, who was allowed by the court to join the suit, requested that it be heard by a federal judge.
Sanford earlier last week moved that the other suit before the Supreme Court, filed by the S.C. Association of School Administrators against Sanford, be transferred to federal court.
The Supreme Court could hear the students’ suit as early as this week. The court, mindful of the deadline, is expected to rule quickly, though the high court isn’t bound by any deadline. A quick ruling would allow Anderson to rule on the federal suit before the deadline.
If the S.C. Supreme Court rules against Sanford, the governor has the right to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, though the nation’s top court rejects the vast majority of requests. Sanford also could appeal any unfavorable ruling by Anderson in the federal suit to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. By declaring his intention not to file appeals, Sanford is giving the state a chance to meet its deadline for the money if he loses his legal argument.
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