A Marion County judge has dismissed a lawsuit from Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz against the State Board of Education. The judge ruled only the Indiana Attorney General's office has the authority to file such a lawsuit. Ritz believes board members violated Indiana's open door law when it moved responsibility for the A-F school accountability system from her office to the Legislative Services Agency.

November 8, 2013

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. — A court today granted the Attorney General’s motion to strike the appearances and filings of outside attorneys whom the AG contended could not represent the State of Indiana in the lawsuit Ritz v. Elsener. As the lawyer for state government, Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s Office argued on behalf of state legal authority that the appearances and filings of the various other counsel were unauthorized and invalid. Judge Louis Rosenberg in Marion County Circuit Court today granted the motion to strike. Attorney General Zoeller issued this statement:

“The reason you don't see one arm of state government’s executive branch sue another is because the statute and case law make it the Attorney General's responsibility to represent state agencies in court and harmonize their conflicting legal positions, and the judicial branch was not meant to oversee internal conflicts within the executive branch. My office was not adverse to any of our clients but sought only to ensure proper legal procedures were followed,” Zoeller said.

At issue was the motion filed by the Attorney General's Office to strike the appearances and filings of the DOE in-house attorneys for the plaintiff. The court granted the motion, meaning the Attorney General and his deputies are the only State attorneys of record in the matter and the case will not proceed as filed and will be dismissed. The Attorney General also moved to strike the appearance and filing of a private attorney for one of the Board of Education defendants.

“Now that this question is behind us, we encourage everyone to work to resolve their disputes in a way that respects one another and the State we all serve,” Zoeller added.

As the State's law firm that serves as legal counsel to more than 40 state boards and commissions, the Attorney General’s Office this week provided legal advice to the 11 members of the State Board of Education about navigating legal requirements and minimizing legal exposure. Without weighing in on the merits of the Open Door dispute, Zoeller noted that public actions taken today by the Board should contribute to a timely resolution of pending legal matters.

Source: Office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller

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