Right to Work Hits State Supreme Court

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The Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments today from union plaintiffs and state government defendants in a lawsuit concerning the constitutionality of Indiana's Right to Work law. Today's arguments were the first presided over by new Chief Justice Loretta Rush.

September 4, 2014

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. -- Under its duty to defend state laws from legal challenges, the Indiana Attorney General's Office today argued on behalf of Indiana's right to work statute in the Indiana Supreme Court. Having heard oral argument from the union plaintiffs and state government defendants in the lawsuit challenging the statute, the state's highest court will rule at a later date. Appearing for the state defendants, Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher argued the 2012 statute should not be overturned.

"The State contends that the elected legislators were within their authority to craft a policy prohibiting involuntary union dues and that this statute does not violate the Indiana Constitution. The justices' questioning of the lawyers today is normal and expected during an Indiana Supreme Court argument, and assists the Court in its analysis of the case. As we await a decision we urge everyone to show respect for the Court and the process," Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.

The Sweeney case heard today is the State’s appeal of a Lake County Superior Court ruling of one year ago that had granted the plaintiffs’ motion and invalidated the statute. That ruling has been stayed since then and there is no current legal obstacle to the State enforcing the right to work statute, pending appeal.

Also filed in the Indiana Supreme Court but not scheduled for argument today is the State’s separate appeal of a Lake County Circuit Court ruling in a similar legal challenge, the United Steel case. Because of a stay order, the Lake Circuit ruling invalidating the statute also is halted, pending appeal.

The same Sweeney plaintiffs previously had challenged the right to work law in federal court, but both the U.S. District Court and – earlier this week – the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the state law did not violate federal law or the federal Constitution. The case the Indiana Supreme Court heard today separately tests whether the law complies with the Indiana Constitution. Today's oral argument was the first where new Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush has presided over the five-member Indiana Supreme Court since her inauguration as Chief Justice on August 18.

As lawyer for the state government, the Attorney General's Office defends state statutes the Legislature has passed from legal challenges plaintiffs' lawyers file. Defense of the statute has been through the AG's Office's regular budget approved by the Legislature in advance, with no outside counsel used.

Source: Office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller