Indiana high court rejects AG’s bid to stall governor’s powers lawsuit

Indiana’s governor can go ahead with a lawsuit challenging the increased power state legislators gave themselves to intervene during public health emergencies, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The justices issued a one-page order saying they voted 4-1 to reject arguments for blocking Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s pursuit of the lawsuit with private lawyers representing him.

It was the second time this month the court denied motions from Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office that the lawsuit shouldn’t be allowed to proceed at this time because of the state constitution’s ban on individual legislators being subject to civil court action during General Assembly sessions.

Holcomb’s lawsuit argues a law passed in April over his veto by the Republican-dominated Legislature is unconstitutional because it gives lawmakers a new power to call themselves into a special legislative “emergency session” during statewide emergencies declared by the governor.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes as a Marion County judge has scheduled a Sept. 10 hearing on the merits of the lawsuit.

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20 thoughts on “Indiana high court rejects AG’s bid to stall governor’s powers lawsuit

  1. A legislative check on emergency powers of the Governor and bureaucracy makes sense. I agree with the court as to Rokita’s lawsuit for the same reason. I don’t want any AG to be able to make policy by withholding services.

    1. Rokita didn’t bring the suit, Holcomb did. Rokita was trying to prevent Holcomb’s suit from going forward. It is Holcomb who is trying to prevent a legislative check on his ability to govern by emergency decree as he did last year. Rokita’s argument was weak if it was based on civil immunity of legislators.

      I agree with your other point though, a future AG should not be able to deny a future governor accredited to the courts by withholding his services.

    2. A reminder than the Indiana legislature could have ended Holcomb’s emergency orders at any point during their 2021 session and chose not to. They had three months and enough time to make sure we had an official state snack.

  2. One must question the attorney general’s legal chops after the state Supreme Court bats down two filings in a row. One must also question the attorney general’s motives for pursuing these suits. Perhaps they are more about harassing a political foe and less about matters of law? Putting political self-interest before prudent public policy appears to be something the attorney general learned from Donald Trump.

    1. A federal judge recently started sanctions against 9 lawyers that brought frivolous, baseless, and politically motivated lawsuits to various courts. The is first step to disbarment. If only Indiana could get so lucky with Rokita.

  3. The important question that intelligent commenters should focus on is not whether or not Rokita sucks, but rather, whether the general assembly has the power to call itself into special session to act as a check and balance against a governor who thinks he can rule by decree because of a declared emergency.

    With a part time legislature like we have here in Indiana, of course no one wants the governor to have to get permission from the legislature to handle a true emergency.

    But by the same token, shouldn’t the legislature be able to call itself into session to act as a check on a governor’s emergency powers?

    Holcomb is arguing in court that no, only a governor can call the legislature into a special session, in other words, a governor should be able to rule by decree as he sees fit without oversight from the legislature, at least until the next regular session. I for one have a problem with that.

    1. The Indiana State Constitution expressly gives the governor the power to call special sessions. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. The state legislature has no such power granted to it. You may have a problem with that, but there is nothing you, Rokita, or the Supreme Court can do about it. Only by amending the constitution can that be changed.

    2. The way to solve this problem is to pass a law that forces the governor to call the legislature into session to extend emergency orders past 60 or 90 days. It’s an obvious solution to this problem, but The Indiana Republican Party is clueless.

    3. Don’t encourage them, Brent … they have a poor track record with constitutional amendments.

      Also a reminder that Holcomb offered to call the Legislature into special session but the leadership declined.

      The only thing worse than Todd Rokita is the Indiana legislature. They’re more worried about keeping things the same so Indiana continues to be “a state that works two jobs to make ends meet” … than they are interested in moving the state of Indiana ahead.

    4. “The way to solve this problem is to pass a law that forces the governor to call the legislature into session to extend emergency orders past 60 or 90 days. It’s an obvious solution to this problem, but The Indiana Republican Party is clueless.” The first 2021 Repub proposed bill said exactly that. The Legislature created the governor’s emergency powers. They could set time limits. Why did the that bill get sidelined in favor of what passed? Curious to see what game the legislators are playing that they chose to write a law they knew was subject to constitutional challenge. Maybe “clueless”, or maybe more at stake we don’t know about.

    5. Any measure passed by the legislature that would limit the scope of a governor’s emergency powers could be vetoed by the governor. Of course, the legislature could then over-ride that veto.

  4. I have known Todd for years and everything negative you think about him, multiply by 2, and you are still not even close. I believe his only moral compass is what he can say to get elected – doesn’t matter to what office – he just doesn’t want a real job where is he judged on his merits. Of course Indiana, the land of the hillbilly, will elect him as the next Governor driving the “brain drain” in the state to a new high.

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