« Ind. Courts - More on "Wabash College lawsuit raises questions about who polices fraternity hazing" | Main | Ind. Courts - More on "John Myers' appeal of his murder conviction in Jill Behrman's killing begins Tuesday" »

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - More on "Attorney General's office will handle DCS appellate court cases"

Readers may remember this news from last September - Tim Evans reported in the Indianapolis Star that:

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Thursday he will reassume responsibility for Department of Child Services appellate court cases in the wake of a controversial attempt by DCS to block a newspaper from publishing information about a call to the agency’s child abuse hotline.

Zoeller, who earlier criticized DCS’ move as “inconsistent with the First Amendment,” cited a need for better communication, as well as more consistency and expertise in representing the interests of the state.

The new approach, which Zoeller announced will take effect by Jan. 1 at the latest, will replace the current process in which the attorney general’s office had granted permission for staff attorneys from DCS to handle cases in the Court of Appeals.

Attorneys from DCS will continue to represent the agency in cases at the local court level. * * *

Zoeller said attorneys in his office have more expertise and experience in appellate matters, and that such cases set precedent that can affect other state agencies and interests.

“It’s not just due to the errors,” he said, “but really the numbers, the volume and the complexity of some of the cases. It’s just better to bring it all back in house.”

Zoeller said he was caught off guard by the motion DCS filed against the South Bend Tribune and thinks his own office could have done a better job of communication. “That’s one that I learned about on a Saturday,” he said, which is not the kind of communication that he wants and needs.

In hindsight, Zoeller said, the change “is probably something I should have done earlier.”

Here is the entire Sept. 13, 2012 AG news release. Here also is the hand-delivered letter of the same date "formally outlining the new consent arrangement, reserving appellate representation of DCS to the Attorney General’s Office and trial representation of the agency to DCS." In other words, much was made of this change at the time.

That was seven months ago. I was surprised this morning when a reader has sent me this document prepared by the Court of Appeals staff for an oral Argument at Taylor University, which took place on April 13, 2013. DCS is the Appellee, and as can be seen in the 4-page brochure, DCS is represented, not by the Attorney General's office, but by the DCS Deputy General Counsel, who oversees trial/practice development and appeals for DCS, and has been at that agency for six years.

Also interesting: The use of legal counsel other than the AG by state agencies was the focus this ILB entry from Jan. 23, 2013, quoting a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette story by Niki Kelly.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 24, 2013 09:36 AM
Posted to Indiana Government