The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 27, 2021 2:52 pm

State high court avoids emergency-powers suit for now

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday decided not to get involved in a dispute between Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana legislature -- at least not yet.

Attorney General Todd Rokita, representing lawmakers, wanted the state’s highest court to step in now instead of during an appeal.

Rokita had sought a writ of mandamus directly with the Indiana Supreme Court -- an attempt to bypass a trial court that has ruled against him. He wanted the Indiana Supreme Court to order the Marion Superior Court hearing the case to "cease all proceedings" in the lawsuit.

A narrow category of cases may be filed directly with the Supreme Court, and the attorney general's office argued that some of the issues raised in Holcomb's lawsuit against the legislature meet that standard.

The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday denied that request 4-1.

Holcomb sued the Indiana General Assembly after it passed a bill allowing lawmakers during a statewide emergency to call a special session. He alleges that House Enrolled Act 1123 is unconstitutional because the Indiana Constitution gives the power to call a special session to the governor.

A hearing in Marion Superior Court is scheduled for Sept. 10 on the merits of the case -- whether the legislature overstepped its constitutional powers.

The bill was passed in response to the emergency orders Holcomb issued during the pandemic, which included mask mandates and limits on restaurant capacity.

Rokita has tried to stop the suit on grounds that Holcomb can't sue without the attorney general's permission. A Marion County judge ruled against that argument and denied a petition for an interlocutory appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Rokita also has sought a continuance based on the General Assembly still being in session. The legislature didn't adjourn as usual in April because members must redistrict in September after census data arrive. But they are not meeting or currently working.

Rokita could still appeal the case after a trial judge rules.

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