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Environmental groups ask Massa to recuse from Rockport case

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Justice Mark Massa should recuse himself from hearing an Indiana Supreme Court appeal of a ruling that hindered a proposed multi-billion-dollar coal gasification plant in Rockport, several environmental and consumer groups argue in a brief filed in the case.

Massa’s 27-year relationship with project manager Mark Lubbers “would cause any ordinary objective observer to question whether he can remain impartial,” according to the motion for disqualification filed by Florida attorney Jerome Polk on behalf of Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Spencer County Citizens for Quality of Life and Save the Valley.

Massa so far has said nothing publicly about calls for his recusal, and Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said Wednesday Massa had no immediate response to the motion filed Tuesday.

“He is not required to reply to the motion,” Dolan said. “The code of judicial conduct prevents Justice Massa from commenting.” She said there was no immediate indication whether Massa would or would not disqualify himself from the case.

The motion also argues that proof of actual bias isn’t a prerequisite for recusal, citing as one precedent former Chief Justice Randall Shepard’s removal from former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson’s rape conviction appeal.

The brief also argues that “Lubbers has his personal fortune at stake in the outcome of this proceeding,” having been involved in the $2.7 billion project championed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.  

Massa, a Daniels appointee to the Supreme Court who previously served as the former governor’s chief counsel, was hired in 1985 by Lubbers as a speechwriter for then-Gov. Robert Orr. Lubbers now is project manager for Rockport developer Indiana Gasification LLC’s parent, hedge fund Leucadia National Corp.

After the legislature earlier this year passed a bill that left the fate of the plant in the hands of the justices, creating the likelihood of a new round of state regulatory review, Lubbers announced that Indiana Gasification was suspending work on the project.

The motion cites an open letter from Lubbers to the media dated April 30 that said in part, “We will work hard for a win if the Supreme Court takes the case. … If the Supreme Court does not take the case, the project is dead … If the Supreme Court takes the case, we think we have a good chance of winning.”

Polk argues in the brief that Lubbers’ letter “is a clear ‘roadmap’ with his personal imprimatur stamped on it for how the Supreme Court could and should decide the case in order to give the project a chance. It reads like a personal message from Lubbers to Justice Massa which squarely puts the Court ‘on the spot’ to help Justice Massa’s mentor and benefactor.”

The brief also argues that the absence of Massa’s recusal to date despite widespread calls raises questions about his impartiality.

“This is a high-profile proceeding and the decision on whether or not Justice Massa should recuse is not just a question that Hoosiers will ask, but also a question as to what other States will say when they look to Indiana,” the motion asserts.

Exhibits establishing the connection between Lubbers and Massa and other arguments supporting the motion include copies of Lubbers’ comments at Massa’s formal robing ceremony, letters and emails from Lubbers to reporters, and media reports.




 








 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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