INDIANAPOLIS – A Marion County judge heard some of the first arguments in connection to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s lawsuit against the Indiana General Assembly.
The hearing focused on a motion filed by Attorney General Todd Rokita to have the lawsuit thrown out, challenging Holcomb’s hiring of his own attorneys for the case.
It will be a few more weeks until Judge Patrick Dietrick of Marion County Superior Court makes a decision on whether the lawsuit can move forward, but he indicated during Wednesday’s hearing that he did not want to “let this linger” much longer.
The law at the center of the suit, House Bill 1123, allows the General Assembly to call itself into special session during an emergency. The legislature overrode the governor’s veto, leading to the lawsuit.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Holcomb’s lead attorney John Trimble said the case is focused on separation of powers and defending the rights of the executive branch.
Trimble argued Indiana law allows him to hire outside legal representation for this lawsuit.
“The attorney general has the obligation to defend the constitutionality of the statute, which puts him at odds with the governor, and so in the case of a conflict, we believe the governor has the right to hire outside counsel,” Trimble said after the hearing.
But Indiana’s Solicitor General Thomas Fisher told the judge that’s not allowed without Attorney General Rokita’s consent.
“This is about the state of Indiana,” Fisher said after the hearing. “The governor in his official capacity is the state of Indiana. And the General Assembly has said the state of Indiana is represented in court by the attorney general.”
“This is a case of first impression,” said Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, an attorney who also serves as editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.org. “We’ve never had anything quite like this before.”
If the case moves forward, it could be a while before we find out whether the governor will succeed with his lawsuit, Shabazz said.
“This goes to our constitutional form of government and who has what authority to do what,” Shabazz explained. “Does the legislature have the authority to call itself into special session?”
As Judge Dietrick noted during Wednesday’s hearing, a private citizen has filed his own lawsuit regarding this new law.
Attorneys for the Holcomb and Rokita must submit to the judge proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law by June 30. Once those are received, the judge is expected to make a decision on Rokita’s motion.