The legal challenge to State Rep. Ed Soliday's residency has heated up, with allegations that Soliday's attorney resorted to threats and intimidation in hopes of derailing the case.
Indianapolis attorney William Bock is accused of telling local attorneys Ken Elwood and Mitch Peters that if they did not dismiss the case, the "powers that be" have instructed Bock to aggressively pursue allegations that the pair are in violation of their duties to the court and their oath to uphold the state constitution.
Elwood said in a motion filed Thursday this verbal comment and similar written correspondence constitutes a violation of the oath taken by Bock and demonstrates his motivation and lack of good faith in the case.
Bock said Thursday afternoon he did not intend the conversations and notes to be threatening or intimidating. He also denied making any reference to the "powers that be."
He said he conveyed his concerns as a professional courtesy and still believes Elwood and Peters violated their oaths as attorneys when they filed the suit.
The accusations are part of Elwood's legal response to Bock's motion asking the court to dismiss the residency challenge for lack of jurisdiction.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss is set for 2:30 p.m. March 23 before Porter Superior Judge Bill Alexa.
Bock argues it is unconstitutional to serve a state lawmaker with a civil lawsuit while the Indiana General Assembly is in session.
Elwood said the prohibition does not apply to Soliday because he does not live in his legislative district as is required by law and is thus not a valid lawmaker.
If the court determines the protection does apply to Soliday, Elwood asks that rather than dismiss the case, the court puts it off until the current legislative session ends. The session is expected to last until April 29.
The original lawsuit filed by five local voters claims Porter County commissioners exceeded their authority in October 2001 by reconfiguring House district lines while revamping a few local precincts. The change inappropriately moved Soliday's property at 2307 Throughwoods Drive from the 10th District to the 4th District, the suit contends.The suit asks the court to replace Soliday with Democratic challenger Sylvia Graham, whom Soliday defeated last fall for the two-year term. If that is found to be improper, the group of voters asks that a special election be ordered.
This is not the first time Bock has been at the center of controversy. Questions were raised last year about why Bock was being paid with taxpayer dollars to defend the House of Representatives in a federal lawsuit over sectarian prayers in the House. Because Bock is a partner in the same law firm as then-Speaker Brian Bosma, some folks raised concerns about the conflict of interest. Bosma assured critics he received none of the money paid for Bock's representation.
Bock's argument that legislative immunity protects a legislator from being served with a summons in a civil suit while the legislature is in session seems specious to me. I do believe the issue of residency was not timely raised in this particular case, and if it turns out Soliday isn't a legal resident of his district, it was the result of the county clerk's error and not his. It will be interesting to see how the court rules in this case . Judge Alexa, who is hearing the case, is a former Democratic state senator.