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Attorney General criticized by Gibbons administration official for violating attorney client privilege in health care lawsuit dispute


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: A member of the Gibbons administration said today he believes Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto violated attorney-client privilege when she commented on legal work she is doing on behalf of the governor.

The comment was made by Deputy Chief of Staff Lynn Hettrick during an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program. The discussion centered on Gibbons’ decision to move forward today with a challenge to the federal health care law without the participation of the attorney general’s office.

In rejecting a call by Gibbons to file a legal challenge over the federal health care law, Masto cited time constraints as a factor, including spending time defending Gibbons on personal issues. One case involves a former administration employee who said she was improperly fired from her job in the budget office because Gibbons believed she leaked information about personal text messages sent from his state cell phone.

“I think the attorney general overstepped her bounds of client privilege when she came out and talked about various lawsuits or actions that she is working on behalf of anybody,” Hettrick said. “I don’t think that was appropriate, quite frankly.

“Those are all client privileged issues and they shouldn’t be brought up and mentioned, shouldn’t even be discussed,” he said. “Nothing excused the attorney general from client privilege because the media had a story.”

Masto could not immediately be reached for comment on the remarks.

Hettrick went on to say: “And I think she disqualified herself from ever being involved in this suit based on her comments saying let somebody else do it, and we shouldn’t be involved, and if it works we will win anyway. All of those things she said, I disagree with.”

Even so, Hettrick rejected any suggestion there is a war going on between the governor and attorney general
“Do we disagree? Yes,” he said. “Have we disagreed on multiple things in recent memory? Yes.”

But Hettrick said Masto is reasoned and thinks issues through.

“I’ll give her credit for doing all those things,” he said. “We just disagree on her decision. We think she’s wrong, and we believe we need to fight for Nevada’s rights.”

Gibbons announced today Nevada will join a Florida lawsuit filed against the federal health care law, using a private Nevada attorney who will work free of charge.

Gibbons signed an Executive Order naming Mark Hutchison from the Las Vegas law firm of Hutchison & Steffen as Special Legal Counsel to the Governor to handle this legal effort.

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