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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. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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