INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Attorney General's Office plans to appeal a permanent injunction in the lawsuit over the collection of legislative fines, Crawford v. Berry.
Marion County Superior Court Judge David Dreyer today granted a permanent injunction and issued a ruling prohibiting the collection of fines in the 2012 session by way of payroll deduction and ordering the return of fines withheld during the 2011 session. Representing the State officials named as defendants in the lawsuit, the Attorney General's Office will file the State's appeal in the Indiana Court of Appeals but will ask that it be transferred to the Indiana Supreme Court, where a related appeal in the same lawsuit is being heard, involving the 2011 session fines.
Under the constitutional separation of powers, a trial court cannot interfere in the business of the Legislature or its internal rules, and the Attorney General's Office contends the disagreement over whether fines should now be collected belongs in the legislative branch, not the judicial branch. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today issued this statement:
"The interruption that led to the recent legislative fines ended when session resumed and legislators now should work out among themselves whether to collect fines. We disagree with the trial court's prolonging this internal dispute and the precedent it would establish, and we will respectfully ask a higher court to redirect the dispute promptly and conclusively to the place it belongs: the Legislature," Zoeller said.
On January 27, the Indiana Supreme Court decided to hear the State's separate appeal of the trial court's December 6 ruling concerning 2011 legislative fines. The trial court had declined to dismiss the plaintiff's claim and allowed it to proceed further; the State defendants are appealing that ruling in the underlying case, a process called an interlocutory appeal.
It will be up to the Indiana Supreme Court's discretion whether to accept transfer of the State's appeal of today's permanent injunction ruling and consolidate that case with the interlocutory appeal of the trial court's December 6 ruling.
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