The Indiana Supreme Court will hear the state's appeal in the lawsuit over collecting fines imposed on absent members of the Legislature. The state's highest court on Friday ruled 4-1 to accept jurisdiction of the interlocutory appeal sought by the Indiana attorney general's office, which represents the state and officials named as defendants in the legislative fines lawsuit, Crawford v. Berry.
In a separate hearing Friday in the same underlying lawsuit, Marion Superior Court Judge David Dreyer heard arguments on the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction but has not ruled yet. The trial court extended a temporary restraining order preventing collection of fines by way of payroll deduction for another 10 days.
The attorney general's office contends that under the separation of powers, a trial court cannot interfere in the business of the Legislature or its internal rules.
"Under our Constitution, disagreements between legislators over legislative rules should be hammered out and decided within the legislative branch, not the judicial branch,” said Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “Because the plaintiffs brought this internal dispute to the trial court, the state now must ask a higher court to send the dispute back to the Legislature where it fundamentally and properly belongs.”
A ruling in the underlying case Crawford v. Berry, originally litigated last year, was being appealed by the state. On Friday, the Supreme Court granted transfer, meaning the interlocutory appeal will be heard there, bypassing the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Zoeller noted that if the Marion Superior Court's eventual ruling on the preliminary injunction motion is appealed by either side, then that appeal also could be heard in the Indiana Supreme Court at its discretion, and the two appeals could be consolidated.