Ind. AG: Outside counsel not authorized to represent state official in suit

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 6, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) -- Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller argues his office represents state officials and that outside counsel is not authorized to do so in a lawsuit filed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

Ritz filed her lawsuit last month in response to apparent violations of Indiana's Open Door Law by members of the state Board of Education. The suit names 10 board members as defendants.

In particular, Ritz's lawsuit alleges that the named board members violated the state's Open Door Law by taking action in secret by drafting, or directing the drafting of, a letter they sent to Senate President Pro Tempore David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma dated Oct. 16.

On Tuesday, a Marion County Circuit Court heard the attorney general's motion to strike the appearances and filings of the Department of Education in-house attorneys for the plaintiff.

Zoeller called the appearances and filings "unauthorized" and "invalid."

"The only issue before the court is whether an attorney can represent the state of Indiana without the consent of the attorney general," he said in a statement.

"My office is not adverse to any of our clients but we are only defending the well-established case law that helps avoid the disputes in the Statehouse from coming before the judicial branch of government."

Ritz's lawsuit alleges that the 10 board members violated the law when they took action by requesting that Long and Bosma appoint Indiana's Legislative Services Agency to perform calculations to determine the 2012-13 A-F grades for the state's schools.

The suit alleges that no public notice was issued for a meeting that allowed for this action and that Ritz was not made aware of this action until after it was taken, despite her role as chair of the board.

"When I was sworn in to office, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the state of Indiana," Ritz said in a statement last month. "I take this oath very seriously and I was dismayed to learn that other members of the state board have not complied with the requirements of the law.

"While I respect the commitment and expertise of members of the board individually, I feel they have overstepped their bounds."

Judge Louis Rosenberg took Zoeller's motion to strike under advisement and will rule later.

The attorney general has filed a separate motion to strike the appearance and filing of a private attorney for one of the board defendants. The court has not conducted a hearing on that motion yet.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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