Rokita loses first attempt at Indiana Supreme Court to stop governor’s lawsuit against General Assembly

The Indiana Supreme Court has denied Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s emergency petition to halt a trial court from continuing proceedings in the governor’s lawsuit against the Legislature.

In a single-page order issued Tuesday, the justices denied the attorney general’s request for an emergency writ of mandamus and prohibition in Holcomb v. Bray, 49D12-2104-PL-14068. However, the court noted the request for a permanent writ remains under advisement, and it included the reminder that briefs opposing the permanent writ are due no later than Friday.

The attorney general argued the Indiana Constitution prohibits any civil process against senators and representatives while the General Assembly is in session. In the brief supporting the petition for a writ, the attorney general contended the General Assembly remains in session because the Legislature recessed instead of adjourned in the spring so that members could reconvene in the fall to redraw the legislative and congressional maps.

“The trial court’s refusal to continue all proceedings in this case until at least 30 days after the legislature adjourns sine die is unconstitutional, contrary to a nondiscretionary statutory directive, and exceeds the trial court’s jurisdiction over a coordinate branch of government,” the brief stated.

Gov. Eric Holcomb sued the Legislature after the Statehouse overrode his veto of HEA 1123. The bill, in part, allows the General Assembly to call itself into emergency session, which the governor maintains violates separation of powers as established in the Indiana Constitution.

The governor asserted the opposing parties have not shown they would suffer irreparable injury from now until the justices rule on the petition for a permanent writ.

In his brief opposing the attorney general’s request, Holcomb noted the named defendants in his lawsuit, House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, have not submitted any evidence that there is legislative work to be done between now and whenever the Supreme Court rules. Also, they have not provided any evidence that they have to help the attorney general prepare the summary judgment motion in this matter or that they are adversely impacted by the continuation of the litigation in the Marion Superior Court, the governor argued.

“They have failed their burden of establishing ‘irreparable injury’ to them as the only Relators who are a ‘Senator’ and ‘Representative,’” the governor’s brief states. “In short, the Trial Court got it right on this issue of first impression when it ruled: ‘Although the General Assembly is still technically in session, the Defendants are not currently engaged in any legislative activity.’”

The other parties to the Supreme Court action — Marion Superior Court 12 and Judge Patrick Dietrick — have also filed a brief opposing both the emergency and permanent writs.

The case is the Supreme Court is State of Indiana ex rel. The Indiana General Assembly, et al. v. Marion Superior Court 12, et al., 21S-OR-354.

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