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Friday, November 08, 2013

Ind. Courts - "Ritz’s right to sue now up to judge: Ruling could toss complaint of education board’s miscue"

Updating this ILB post from Oct. 26th, Niki Kelly reported yesterday in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg could decide by Friday whether Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz can sue the State Board of Education.

He heard about an hour’s worth of arguments on the case Tuesday but seemed to be leaning toward dismissing a complaint she filed because of legal precedent.

Ritz sued in October, alleging that the 10 other members of the State Board of Education violated the state’s open meeting law by sending a letter to legislative leaders asking them to intervene in calculating A-F school grades.

That letter was emailed around for the members to sign – except for Ritz.

Board members contend no meeting occurred in person or by phone, so therefore there was no violation.

The next meeting of the State Board of Education is also Friday, which will be the first time the group has met since the tensions boiled over into the legal arena.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller intervened in the case, moving to strike the complaint, saying he doesn’t believe Ritz has the legal authority to sue without his approval.

He points to a state statute that says he has the sole legal authority to represent the state in court.

David Arthur, the attorney arguing on behalf of Zoeller, said there are two previous Supreme Court rulings on the matter, including one in which the governor was not permitted to sue the alcoholic beverage commission on his own.

Michael Moore, representing Ritz in the case, said there is an exemption in the law for constitutional officers such as herself. He said she is also a member of the board and runs the Department of Education.

But Rosenberg said one of the Supreme Court opinions discussed that possible exception and did not find in its favor.

“It’s a tough case to get around for you,” the judge said to Moore. “I don’t see a distinction.”

Moore also noted that Ritz’s office asked Zoeller to file the lawsuit – or to approve outside counsel to file it – but he refused.

So even if the complaint is tossed, he argued that Zoeller’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and is subject to review by a judge.

Arthur said he hadn’t heard about that issue until Tuesday.

See also this post in the blog School Matters, headed "Open Door Law: 'Any person' can sue … or not?"

[Updated] Just as the above was posted, I saw this tweet from Niki Kelly, who is attending this morning's state board of education meeting:

Conflicts already arising at #INSBOE - parliamentarian issues and the board not wanting SPI Ritz to have attorney at the table.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 8, 2013 09:35 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts