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Friday, June 10, 2016

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today [Updated twice]

In Matthew Claussen v. Michael Pence (ND Ind., Simon), a 12-page opinion, Judge Flaum writes:

Plaintiffs are civil servants who hold elected office in the municipality that employs them. They challenge a recently‐enacted Indiana law prohibiting persons from simultaneously holding elected office and being employed as civil servants in the same unit of government. Plaintiffs contend that the law violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, and for the reasons that follow, we affirm.

In 2012, the Indiana General Assembly enacted Indiana Code § 3‐5‐9‐5 (the “Indiana Law” or the “Law”), which provides, in relevant part, that “an individual is considered to have resigned as a government employee when the individual assumes an elected office of the unit that employs the individual.” The Law became effective on January 1, 2013, but a grandfather clause allowed then‐current officeholders to complete their terms before becoming subject to it. See Ind. Code § 3‐5‐9‐7. * * *

[A. First Amendment] In sum, because the Indiana Law imposes a small burden on plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, and any burden is outweighed by Indiana’s compelling interest in avoiding corruption by public officeholders and the appearance of the same, the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ First Amendment challenge.

[B. Fourteenth Amendment] * * * The Indiana Law surely passes muster under rational basis review. There is a clear, rational relationship between preventing actual and perceived corruption and Indiana’s treatment of municipal employees. Although government contractors who hold elected office could use their voting power to enrich themselves at the expense of the public, Indiana subjects government contractors to extensive disclosure requirements, which reduces the risk of self‐dealing. And even if the risk of self‐dealing were identical for contractors and employees, Indiana is not required to address all manifestations of public corruption at once. See FCC v. Beach Commc’ns, Inc., 508 U.S. 307, 316 (1993) (holding that the State “must be allowed leeway to approach a perceived problem incrementally”); Clements, 457 U.S. at 969 (“The Equal Protection Clause allows the State to regulate one step at a time, addressing itself to the phase of the problem which seems most acute.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)). Thus, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ claim under the Equal Protection Clause.

ILB: For background, see this ILB post from Dec. 15, 2015, headed "Elected officials take fight against nepotism law to state court," written after, as the NWI Times reported, "U.S. District Chief Judge Philip Simon earlier this month dismissed the politicians' lawsuit from Hammond federal court but declined to rule on their state claims."

[Updated at 5:33 PM] A news release issued this afternoon by AG Zoeller explains:

The Attorney General’s Office continues to defend the anti-conflict-of-interest statute from a separate legal challenge filed by the same plaintiffs that is currently pending in Lake County Superior Court. That case is scheduled for oral argument June 28. How the 7th Circuit’s ruling might impact the Lake County court case still is being reviewed.
[Updated June 12th] Dan Carden of the NWI Times reported on the ruling this weekend in a story headed "Fed appeals court affirms Indiana's double-dipping ban ."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 10, 2016 03:43 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions