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Monday, November 14, 2016

Ind. Courts - COA next week to hear public records challenge

Fatima Hussein, the new civil courts reporter for the Indianapolis Star, has a long story this morning on a lawsuit to access certain of Governor Pence's email communications. The case originated in a Texas immigration lawsuit Gov. Pence joined, hiring outside counsel after AG Zoeller declined to participate - see this Feb. 18, 2015 ILB post for background.

From today's Star story:

Pence hired Indianapolis law firm Barnes & Thornburg to join the Texas litigation. A representative from the firm — which is also representing Pence in this case — did not respond to IndyStar requests for interview.

In December 2014, [William] Groth requested information regarding Pence's decision to hire outside counsel and the cost to Indiana taxpayers.

"I think joining the lawsuit without the attorney general and hiring that firm was a waste of taxpayer dollars and the people have the right to know how much of their money was spent,” Groth said. * * *

Pence produced the documents in the request “but those documents included substantial redaction,” according to court documents.

The 57-page response also included an email that Daniel Hodge, Abbott's chief of staff, sent to 30 recipients in various states asking them to join the lawsuit against Obama.

The message included an attached white paper, but the governor failed to produce the document, according to court records.

After a yearlong trial, the Superior Court held that the issue was not a matter for the courts to decide, citing a Indiana Supreme Court case decided just days before.

In a 4-1 ruling, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in Citizens Action Coalition, et al. v. Indiana House Rep., that under the Indiana Constitution’s separation of powers clause the legislature's redactions were nonjusticiable, a legal term that means not for the court to decide. Groth was also the attorney representing the plaintiffs in that case. * * *

Paul Jefferson, a former professor of state constitutional law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said the major question for the appellate court to decide is "whether they're going to extend that (Citizens Action Coalition, et al. v. Indiana House Rep.) to the executive branch as a whole."

He said if the court rules in favor of the governor, "that would severely limit the Access to Public Records Act."

ILB: The ILB has had a number of posts on CAC v. Koch, the non-justicability rationale, and its ramifications. See especially this one from April 26th, quoting a story from the Bloomington Herald-Times.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 14, 2016 08:44 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts | Indiana Government