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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ind. Decisions - "Public access advocates say their fears about the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision are already coming true"

Hayleigh Colombo reports this afternoon for the IBJ in a story headed "Pence argues email privacy ruling should apply to him, too." A few quotes:

Gov. Mike Pence is using a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision to argue that he should not be required to release documents that have been deemed by law to be public records.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled April 19 that it won’t compel lawmakers to release their emails to the public, even though it said the Access to Public Records Act applies to the General Assembly. The court said the separation of powers in the Indiana Constitution means the courts should not tread on lawmakers’ turf.

Now, Pence wants that same logic applied to him. * * *

Indianapolis attorney William Groth sued Pence last year over documents relating to the Republican governor's lawsuit related to illegal immigration. Pence was seeking to overturn an executive order by President Obama that deferred removal of about 4 million illegal immigrants. Seventeen other states also sued.

Groth asked a court to decide whether Pence’s heavy redaction and denial of those records was permissible under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.

But Pence’s lawyers said last week the court should “decline to interfere in the executive’s internal operations” as it did with the Legislature in the recent case, Citizens Action Coalition of Ind. vs Koch.

“Just as the judiciary should not ‘intermeddle’ with the legislature’s determination of what constitutes its own work product, the judiciary should also not ‘intermeddle’ with the executive’s determination of what constitutes its own work product, deliberative material, or privileged material,” according to the filing submitted by Barnes & Thornburg, which is representing the Governor’s Office.

Groth said his lawyer informed him that the lawsuit was dismissed Friday by the Marion Superior Court. He said the dismissal did not mention the Koch case, so he can’t be sure if Pence’s argument clinched the decision, but that he will likely file an appeal.

Pence’s lawyers filed their argument in the case on April 22, three days after the Supreme Court ruled in the Koch case. * * *

Public access advocates say their fears about the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision are already coming true.

Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, said he was worried the Supreme Court case would have negative, far-reaching implications, and this appears to be one of them.

“The Pence administration is already citing Koch as an additional authority to deny releasing government documents,” Olson said. "it’s quite astonishing and troubling. It further shuts the door to accountability and transparency in government when we should be going the opposite direction.” * * *

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, said the implications of Pence’s request are troubling.

“If the judiciary takes this position, it would eviscerate the Access to Public Records Act because every agency would argue that a judge shouldn’t judge whether a document should be released under an APRA request if the agency’s position is that the record is part of its internal operations,” Key said. “The public’s ability to hold government officials accountable would be greatly hamstrung by such a policy.”

ILB: See also this ILB post from April 26th, which at the end includes a quote from Governor Pence's Submission of Additional Authority re Groth v. Pence.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 28, 2016 04:20 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions | Indiana Government