Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita on April 30 asked a Marion County court to strike down a lawsuit filed on behalf of Gov. Eric Holcomb saying that Rokita’s office has “the sole responsibility for the legal representation of the State.”
On April 27, a lawsuit was filed in Marion County Circuit Court by attorney John C. Trimble of the Indianapolis firm Lewis Wagner, LLP. It stated that Holcomb is suing Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Brady and Speaker of the House of Representatives Todd Huston, both members of the Legislative Council, and the Indiana General Assembly as a whole over its passing of House Enrolled Act 1123 that gives the body the ability to call special sessions.
Rokita, who acts as counsel of record on behalf of the State of Indiana — including Holcomb, Bray, Huston, the Legislative Council, and the Indiana General Assembly — called the lawsuit “unauthorized” in its attempt to invalidate the law to address the timing of its own sessions during a future state of emergency. He said Holcomb can’t hire outside counsel without his office’s consent and asked the court to strike the attorneys’ appearances and future filings.
A statement from Rokita read in part, “Despite the suit’s allegations, the legislature’s actions have created no emergency or unique circumstances — the new statute merely lays out a plan to address any future crisis and imposes no injury on anyone, including the Governor, that would provide legal justification for a case to go forward under current Indiana statutes and case law. HEA 1123 is constitutional. This new law leaves untouched the Governor’s constitutional authority to call the General Assembly into special session, merely carrying out the General Assembly’s own constitutional authority to ‘appoint by law’ the day for ‘commencing’ its sessions and to ‘fix by law’ ‘the length and frequency of (its) sessions.’”
Rokita’s statement went on to say that, “The Constitution does not authorize the judicial branch to resolve disagreements between the other branches over legal policy, even when those disagreements implicate constitutional disputes. The legislature created the Office of the Attorney General precisely to resolve these sorts of disagreements over state legal policy.”
Following are points made for the office’s legal conclusions and actions:
• The Indiana Attorney General’s duty is to protect the state’s legal interests, independent of any one branch of state government.
• Allowing a part of the executive branch to litigate a difference of opinion against members of the legislative branch, all at taxpayer expense, is a departure from decades-long legal principles.
• The Indiana Supreme Court has held that no state agency or office holder may file a declaratory judgment action because allowing “state agencies to resort to the judicial system for review of every statute passed in the state would foster legislative irresponsibility and unnecessarily overburden the courts into issuing essentially advisory opinions.”
• There is no immediate danger of a legally cognizable direct injury to the executive branch.
• Members of the General Assembly are immune from suit challenging the legislation they have passed.
The “Attorney General will defend HEA 1123 against an appropriate constitutional challenge timely brought by an external party who claims a real, direct injury,” Rokita said.