Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Ind. Gov't. - "Court should stay out of legislative matter, GA motion says"
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana courts have no business deciding disputes involving the Indiana House, according to a motion filed in a lawsuit about the House's attempts to conceal legislator communications.
Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter filed a motion to dismiss the case Friday.
"Under separation of powers principles, courts are not to meddle in the affairs of an equal, coordinate branch of state government," the court records said.
"The General Assembly chose to apply the public records act to certain legislative bodies, including itself. But this statutory enactment is legally insufficient to overcome the separation of powers limitation on the court's ability to grant plaintiffs relief."
The documents said "mere statutes cannot trump the judiciary's constitutional obligation" to refrain from getting involved in legislative affairs.
The motion is the latest in a case filed in April by the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Energy and Policy Institute and Common Cause Indiana. They sued about a public records request for correspondence between Republican Rep. Eric Koch and various utilities regarding a bill about solar power. * * *
The motion to dismiss also cautioned that opening up legislator communications would interfere with their ability to enact laws.
"Nothing is more fundamental to a legislator's central role than his considering ideas for proposed legislation, weighting their merits and de-merits, hearing from those likely to be affected, and then undertaking to transform worthy concepts into specific legislative text," the motion said. "Each of these steps entails communications with others, sometimes many others, including but not limited to one's colleagues, constituents and staff."
Slaughter argued in his brief the long-standing practice of treating correspondence as confidential is a common-sense approach to fostering open communications.
Any change "would have the effect of stifling the very communications with and between legislators that are essential to the legislative process and that are fundamental to citizens exercising their First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances."