Indiana Supreme Court clears calendar for Holcomb’s lawsuit against General Assembly

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Gov. Eric Holcomb’s battle with the Indiana General Assembly over who has the power to call a special session reaches the Indiana Supreme Court this week as the only oral arguments the justices will hear this month.

Oral arguments in Holcomb v. Bray, et al., 21S-PL-518, are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Thursday. Each side will have 30 minutes.

Holcomb filed the lawsuit after the Legislature overrode his veto of 2021’s House Enrolled Act 1123, which allows the General Assembly to call itself into special session in certain circumstances. The governor repeated the constitutional arguments opponents of the law made as it was being drafted and debated during the 2021 legislative session.

However, Marion Superior Judge Patrick Dietrick rejected those claims. In his October 2021 ruling, Dietrick concluded HEA 1123 is “fully authorized” by the Indiana Constitution and does not violate either the separation of powers clause of Article 3 § 1 or the special sessions clause of Article 4 § 9.

The justices allowed Holcomb to bypass the Court of Appeals of Indiana and move the case directly to the Supreme Court.

In briefing before the high court, Holcomb has argued the state’s constitution must be amended in order for the Legislature to have the power to call itself into session.

“Under Article 16(c), it is for the sovereign authority of Indiana’s organic law — its voting citizenry — to decide by a well-informed vote, whether to ratify a proposed constitutional amendment vesting the Legislature with that authority,” the governor argued in his brief. “That has not happened.”

The Legislature countered that the 1970 and 1984 amendments to the Indiana Constitution removed the limitations on the General Assembly’s sessions.

“Here, no text could more clearly bestow plenary authority over the timing, frequency, and duration of legislative sessions that the 1970 and 1984 amendments removing biennial, 61-day, and April 30 limits and adding ‘length and frequency’ authority,” the Legislature stated in its brief. 

Holcomb is being represented by Lewis Wagner. The Legislature is being represented by the Indiana attorney general.

The court will hear the case in its courtroom on the third floor of the Indiana Statehouse. The courtroom will be open to the general public at full capacity, with masks optional for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. A live webcast will also be available online and outside the courtroom.

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