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AG finds no caselaw that answers same-sex amendment question

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Nearly 13 minutes into a press conference touting the accomplishments of his office in 2013, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller got a question on a topic he may have been hoping to avoid – same-sex marriage.

State legislators have been grappling privately with the proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution banning marriage between two people of the same gender. Their concern is the second sentence of the amendment which some view as too broad and possibly removing legal protections from unmarried heterosexual couples.  

Zoeller said his office has fielded questions and had conversations with elected officials who are actively in favor of the amendment getting a second approval from the Statehouse as well as with elected officials who are opposed. Pointing to recent decisions by federal judges striking down same-sex marriage statutes in other states, Zoeller described the issue as a “very volatile area of the law.”

To the question of whether the Legislature could alter the second sentence and still go forward with getting the issue before voters in the November 2014 general election or if any rewrite would force the amendment process to start all over again, the attorney general had no definite answer.

There have been no cases directly on point that has provided a response to that question, he said.

“I think the fact that it’s not been fully addressed leaves it open to a supposition as to what a federal court might do or a state court might do when it comes to changing language or altering it,” Zoeller said. “So it’s an open question.”

Zoeller devoted most of the press conference to highlighting what he called “an extraordinary year” for himself as well as the Office of the Attorney General. He noted, specifically, the work on getting more resource officers into schools, battling prescription drug abuse and providing extra consumer protection for senior citizens.

The Indiana General Assembly approved legislation proposed by Zoeller and Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, that clarified the duties of school resource officers and established a state grant program to help schools pay for these officers. The measure appropriated $10 million in 2013 and again in 2014 for the grants.

In 2013, 116 school corporations, out of a total of 290, received grants.

Zoeller is now turning his efforts to securing additional funding for more officers. He is eyeing a federal appropriations bill which includes monies for these law enforcement personnel.

If Congress approves the bill and develops a competitive grant program to award the funds, the attorney general believes Indiana will be well-positioned to get federal support. The partnerships between local communities, law enforcement and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute along with Miller’s bill puts Indiana in a leadership role, showing the state has prepared for greater use of school resource officers.

Zoeller also pointed to another piece of legislation, the Senior Consumer Protection Act, recommended by his office and authored by Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. Approved by the General Assembly, the new law increases civil penalties for those who financially exploit state residents who are 60 and older.

The attorney general’s office filed its first lawsuit under the new statute in September against an Indianapolis-based tree service company. Zoeller’s office claims that Steve Spaulding and his company, Spaulding’s Tree Experts, bilked a 93-year-old homeowner out of $7,500 in exchange for minimal and faulty work.

While the case is still pending in Marion County, the attorney general plans to seek a default judgment against the defendant.   

Also in 2013, the attorney general filed disciplinary complaints with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board against 15 doctors for overprescribing painkillers. Zoeller credited the state’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force with making an “emergency effort” to try to stem prescription drug abuse, which has reached epidemic levels.

The task force, of which Zoeller is a co-chair, brought together more than 80 people from different agencies to examine the problem of “pill mills” and the growing dependence on opiate painkillers. During the 2014 legislative session, the task force plans to recommend the state speed up the process that requires pharmacists report their dispensing of certain amounts of opioids.

Zoeller said he has met with physicians who are concerned about new regulations.

“I told them that they should watch the actions taken to date against physicians who have overprescribed,” he said, “and if they see their own practice looking like that, then they should probably worry.”

 

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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