Incoming attorney general may keep Hatch on staff
(A.P.) -Attorney General-elect Lori Swanson has asked outgoing Attorney General Mike Hatch to stay on, a role reversal that would make him an assistant under her.
St. Paul, Minn. — Hatch said Thursday he's thinking about it, though he said that if he takes the offer, he probably wouldn't stay on more than a few weeks under Johnson, who's been his longtime top deputy and confidante in her old post as the state's solicitor general.
Hatch is an "incredibly talented" and "phenomenal" attorney, Swanson said, "and when you have a team, you look for all the talent you can find."
But some observers said the unusual arrangement might create a perception that Hatch was staying in charge of an office that he held for two terms.
"It will be hard for him to go from top banana to second fiddle, and you don't ever see this kind of dynamic work," said Hamline University law professor David Schultz, an expert in legal ethics. "The smartest thing when a leader leaves is to really leave."
Swanson said Hatch might take on special responsibilities for assembling a team of lawyers who handle particularly complex litigation, Swanson said.
While Hatch said he probably wouldn't stay on longer than it takes to get the complex-litigation team going, Swanson said she viewed the offer as "not necessarily indefinite."
Hatch, a Democrat who lost the gubernatorial race against incumbent GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said he's considering "lots of offers" from law firms, companies and other institutions.
Schultz said it apparently would be legal for Hatch to go to work for his former subordinate, but it might not go over well with the public.
"Would he be seen as the de facto attorney general? It raises all kinds of questions about who's running things, given the close relationship they've always had," Schultz said.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said it would look "odd" to have Hatch working for Swanson.
"It kind of reminds you of when Governor George Wallace (of Alabama) had his wife run for governor, and everybody knew who the real governor was," Seifert said.
But Swanson said any fears about who'd be in charge are misplaced.
"I will be the attorney general, and I'm going to call the shots as I see them," Swanson said. "I'm passionate about the work of the office, I believe in the work of the office, and it's the reason I jumped into this race."
Hatch said Swanson, who worked for his law firm before he was elected attorney general in 1998, was one of the strongest personalities in his office and that she's not the kind of person who would take orders from her former boss.