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Justices explain opinion in IBM case

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Last month, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Mitch Daniels doesn’t have to testify in the dispute between the state and IBM regarding a cancelled contract to modernize the state’s welfare system. On Wednesday, the justices explained their reasoning.

In State of Indiana v. International Business Machines Corporation, No. 49S00-1201-PL-15, the majority focused on Indiana Code 34-29-2-1, which says the governor is “privileged from arrest on civil process, and from obeying any subpoena to testify,” and whether that precludes a trial court from issuing an order to compel the governor’s deposition in this case. Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Rucker found that the statute does preclude Daniels’ deposition.

The state and IBM are locked in a legal battle over the state’s decision to cancel the multi-million dollar contract with IBM to update Indiana’s welfare system. IBM served notice on Daniels to take his testimonial deposition, but the state argued under I.C. 34-29-2-1(6), Daniels cannot be deposed. A Marion Superior judge eventually ruled that Daniels could testify.

On Feb. 13, the justices heard arguments on the matter and ruled Daniels doesn’t have to testify.

Rucker wrote in the opinion that ultimately, the question in the case boils down to whether a trial court’s order to compel the governor’s deposition amounts to a “subpoena” from which the governor is privileged under Indiana statute. The majority found the reference to “subpoena” in the statute encompasses the order at issue here, and the statute clearly precludes the deposition of a sitting governor.

“To hold otherwise would be to elevate a strict literal meaning of the word 'subpoena' over clear Legislative intent to provide a gubernatorial privilege against compelled testimony. Surely the Legislature did not mean that any court command, provided it was not denominated 'subpoena,' would suffice to evade the statutory privilege,” Rucker wrote.

Justice Frank Sullivan concurred in result in a separate opinion, writing that it’s not necessary to rule on the privilege issue because the information IBM seeks from the governor isn’t relevant or material to any issue in the case.

 

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