UPDATE: Attorney General Todd Rokita on Tuesday announced his office has filed an appeal of the judge’s decision to allow the lawsuit to proceed.
“The Attorney General’s Office has fought for the liberties of the people of Indiana for decades, using the very same precedents this court has now upended,” said Rokita. “The constitution belongs not to the Governor, the legislature, or the Attorney General, but to the people of Indiana. If left unchallenged, the court’s order in this case threatens to tip the balance of powers and undermine the individual liberties of the citizens of this state. As such, we have filed an appeal in the interest of protecting Hoosiers.”
Rokita said the question of who has authority to represent the state’s legal interests in court is an issue of “fundamental importance” to Indiana’s government.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A judge is letting Indiana’s governor proceed with a lawsuit challenging the increased power state legislators have given themselves to intervene during public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Marion County judge’s ruling rejects arguments from Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita that he alone has the legal authority to represent the state in court and can decide whether the new law is allowed under the state constitution despite GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb’s objections.
Judge Patrick Dietrick wrote in the ruling dated Saturday that such an interpretation would give the attorney general greater power than Holcomb in protecting the governor’s constitutional powers.
“This is an absurd result that could not have been intended by either the drafters of Indiana’s Constitution or the General Assembly,” Dietrick said.
Holcomb’s lawsuit argues that the law passed this spring 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.
Holcomb and some legal experts maintain the state constitution only allows the governor to call the Legislature into special session after its annual session ends.
The attorney general’s office didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday.
General Counsel Joe Heerens issued this statement on behalf of the Governor’s office:
“The judge’s ruling in the governor’s favor means the lawsuit will proceed on the merits of the case. The outcome is important for Gov. Holcomb and how future governors who operate in times of emergency.”