IN Supreme Court schedules May remote arguments, including lethal injection dispute

The Indiana Department of Correction will make another attempt at keeping confidential the suppliers of the lethal drugs used in executions when it appears for oral arguments before the Indiana Supreme Court at 11 a.m. May 27.

Oral arguments in this case and the others scheduled for May will be done through videoconferencing rather than held in-person. The court took the historic step of conducting its proceedings remotely in order to maintain social distancing during the public health emergency caused by COVID-19.

In addition to the IDOC case, Indiana Department of Correction v. A. Katherine Toomey, 19S-PL-00401, the court will hear oral arguments in seven other cases on May 14, 21 and 27.

Already, the IDOC has lost twice in Marion Circuit Court, faced a dismissal at the Indiana Court of Appeals and a transfer denial from the Supreme Court. In between the court tangles, the Indiana General Assembly amended Indiana Code § 35-38-6-1 to provide confidentiality between the IDOC and the supplier of the execution drugs.

Marion Circuit Judge Sheryl Lynch ruled in 2018 the statute did not enable the IDOC to keep its contracts secret. Moreover, Lynch ruled the General Assembly overstepped its constitutional authority and violated the separation of powers by disturbing a pending case.

The IDOC then appealed directly to the Supreme Court, arguing Indiana law has long granted authority to “withhold from the public” any document relating to an execution that would reveal the identity of the person who assists the warden in the administration of the death penalty.

In addition, the department is appealing the trial court’s award of $538,343  in attorney fees to the Toomey.

The other oral arguments scheduled for May are:

Chief Justice Loretta Rush said the Supreme Court made the unprecedented decision to employ videoconferencing in order to keep the docket moving. The justices have continued holding weekly conferences, and the appellate clerk’s office is accepting filings electronically while continuing to issue orders and opinions.

Supreme Court justices and attorneys will interact with each other using  Zoom. The resulting video and audio will be available to the public on the court’s existing livestream website.

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