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Bill enabling legislators to fight for immigration law in court gets hearing

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State senators who are fighting to go to court to defend parts of Indiana’s immigration law – a law that Attorney General Greg Zoeller concluded could not withstand constitutional scrutiny – will hear a bill Wednesday that would give them the power to defend their measures in such cases.

Senate Bill 280 would allow a bill’s author to intervene in a court case in which the constitutionality or enforcement of legislation is challenged. The bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, will be heard at 9 a.m. Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, in Room 130 of the Statehouse.

Delph and Steele, along with Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, last year filed a motion to intervene in Buquer et al. v. City of Indianapolis et al, 1:11-cv-00708, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, after Zoeller said he could no longer defend portions of the law.

Delph sponsored Indiana’s immigration bill, SB 590, which was enacted in 2011. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. U.S. struck down much of Arizona’s immigration law, which was the model for Indiana’s legislation. As a result, Zoeller said he no longer would defend warrantless arrest provisions in Indiana’s law challenged in Buquer.

The senators argued in court briefs in Buquer that after Zoeller declined to defend the law, Delph, Steele and Boots “remain the only interested parties who are ready and willing to defend their core legislative interests in the full implementation of the duly enacted law.”

The AG’s office says in court motions that state law is clear: The office represents the interests of state government.

“These three individual senators seek to inject themselves into this litigation in their official capacities, in order to espouse their legal views on the issues at hand. The senators have hired private counsel to represent these views to the Court. This is not permitted by Indiana law,” the AG’s office argued in a filing in October.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker has set no further hearing dates in the Buquer case.

“We are supportive of current law that allows the attorney general to determine the legal position the state takes to court and, under certain circumstances, allows for legislative leadership representing the Legislature as a whole to hire outside counsel, but not individual members,” said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. “We believe this system has served the state well.”

 

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