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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Plaintiffs file Supreme Court brief in toll road suit [More]

As noted in this ILB entry on the briefing schedule set by the Supreme Court, the deadline for physically filing the plaintiffs'/appellants' brief was 5:00 p.m. this afternoon. Tom Coyne of the AP reports:

Opponents of a plan to lease the Indiana Toll Road on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to overturn a judge's ruling that they must post a $1.9 billion bond to move ahead with the lawsuit.

The challengers say they have presented evidence that the plan to lease the toll road for 75 years to foreign investors - part of Gov. Mitch Daniels' "Major Moves" highway plan - is unconstitutional.

"The framers of the 1851 Constitution, shaken as they were by the state's financial collapse as a result of major canal and road-building projects, carefully crafted a Constitution so as to ensure that such a catastrophe would not happen again," attorneys for the plaintiffs - seven individuals and the Citizens Action Coalition - wrote in the appeal. "In upholding 'Major Moves,' the trial court disregarded the framers' clear intent."

The appeal asks the high court to overturn St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis' May 26 ruling, which declared the case a public lawsuit and required the bond, and send it back to him for a hearing.

The state and the Indiana Finance Authority, which runs the toll road, have until 3 p.m. Monday to file a response. Oral arguments are scheduled Tuesday.

More from Coyne's report:
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued in a 33-page filing late Thursday afternoon that the case should not have been declared a public lawsuit because:

- The Indiana Finance Authority is not a municipal corporation;

- The public lawsuit statute applies only to the "disposition" of a public improvement;

- Scopelitis erred when he ruled the law allowing the lease does not amount to special legislation and therefore is not unconstitutional.

Much of the appeal focuses on whether the state has "public debt." The plaintiffs contend they documented more than $8 billion in pension liabilities that should be considered public debt.

Scopelitis, though, ruled that there is "no evidence that the state of Indiana is obligated on any of this alleged 'debt.'"

The appeal also says the proceeds from the lease deal must be used to pay off public debt and contends Scopelitis ignored the fact that the toll road belongs to the state of Indiana, not the finance authority.

The ILB is hoping obtain a copy of the brief to post here.

[More] Here is the brief - it is scanned and over 1 MB.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 8, 2006 05:49 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions