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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ind. Courts - "Pence, who touts openness, tries to stop document release"

That is the headline to Brian Slodysko's AP coverage yesterday of the oral argument in William Groth v. Mike Pence (for background, start with this LB post from yesterday). Some quotes:

Lawyers for Indiana Governor and Republican Vice President-elect Mike Pence argued in court Monday that the state's judicial branch has no authority to require him to comply with Indiana's public records law.

The civil case before Indiana's Court of Appeals was brought by Indianapolis attorney William Groth, who sued in 2015 after the Pence administration denied a request for un-redacted records, including a document related to Republican efforts to stop President Barack Obama's immigration executive order. * * *

On Monday, Pence attorney Joseph Chapelle told the judges that the separation of powers established under the state's constitution should prevent the court system from forcing Pence and his immediate staff to comply with the open records law if they are sued.

"Inquiry into the personal papers of the governor would (interfere) with the affairs with of the governor's office," Chapelle said. "He's different than other state agencies."

The appellate court took up the case after a lower court ruled that Pence did not have to turn over emails, billing invoices or a document authored by the chief-of-staff to now-Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The documents, sought by Groth, outlined legal arguments for the GOP's successful challenge to Obama's immigration executive order. * * *

The state's highest court ruled in April that that it could not order the Legislature to release lawmakers' email correspondence because it would violate the state constitution's separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government. * * *

A ruling in the case against Pence is not expected immediately. But government watchdog groups say that if the courts ultimately agree with Pence's interpretation, the Indiana governor's office would police itself when it comes to the release of public records, seriously weakening the law by limiting the ability to sue for records.

Fatima Hussein of the Indianapolis Star writes:
Regarding the nonjusticiability doctrine, the judges strongly challenged Pence's legal team on how previous case law would apply.

Pence's team cited the Indiana Supreme Court ruling in Citizens Action Coalition, et al. v. Indiana House Rep., which determined the legislature's redactions were nonjusticiable under the Indiana Constitution’s separation of powers clause. Groth was also the attorney representing the plaintiffs in that case.

Judge Najam said that decision applied only to the legislature and not the executive branch of state government.

Drawing a distinction between the legislative role of government and the executive branch, Najam asked, "Isn't that the whole purpose of APRA, to see who is soliciting our governor?"

Added Vaidik: "What is the point of APRA then?"

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 22, 2016 09:34 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts