Friday, March 09, 2007

Bosma Attorney Accused Of Threatening/Intimidating Attorneys In Soliday Case

A law partner of House Republican Leader Brian Bosma hired to defend Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) in a case challenging his legal residency has been accused by attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case of threats and intimidation if they didn't drop their case against Soliday. The Northwest Indiana Times Bob Kasarda reports:

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.


Gary R. Welsh said...

The immunities clause for legislators in the state constitution reads: "Senators and Representatives, in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest, during the session of the General Assembly, and in going to and returning from the same; and shall not be subject to any civil process, during the session of the General Assembly, nor during the fifteen days next before the commencement thereof. For any speech or debate in either
House, a member shall not be questioned in any other place."

Generally, this immunity would apply to a legislator like Soliday in civil cases, but where you are challenging the person's legal right to be a legislator under the constitution itself, it would seem the immunity shouldn't apply.

Anonymous said...

The clerk's responsibility? Are you serious?

It is the responsibility of every candidate for office to ensure(s)he lives in the proper place. Period.

The correct response should've bene, when the residency issue was poitned out, a resignation by the good representative. He can run next time. A new election would likely yield another Republican in this district, but who knows?

Anonymous said...

Brian Bosma is the Monroe Gray of the statehouse.

Anonymous said...

Evan Bayh Indiana Supreme Court residency case. Read it and weep.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 4:12, every two years I cast my vote and my ballot shows I live in Rep. John Day's district. People who live across the street from me vote in Rep. Jon Elrod's district. It would never occur to me that I really live in Elrod's district when the clerk has been telling me I live in Day's district all these years. Your position is untenable that I'm supposed to know the clerk screwed up in assigning my precinct to a legislative district other than where I actually reside.

Wilson46201 said...

A dumb question: what is the core issue here? Did the Clerk misread the statutory definition of the District (which is specified by text enumerating the included precincts) and assign Soliday's precinct to the wrong District on the local public records, maps and the voting machines? Or did the Clerk move around the precinct boundaries after the Legislature had enumerated the included precincts? Was Soliday's address intended by the Legislature to be in the District he was elected from?

Gary R. Welsh said...

As I understand it, Wilson, the clerk redrew an existing precinct which was in the district Soladay now represents to add a subdivision where Soladay resides. While the old boundaries of the precinct were entirely in the district, the subdivision was not. The clerk failed to check out the statutory description and assigned these folks to the wrong legislative district.

Wilson46201 said...

Doesnt the statutory definition of a Legislative District specifically include text stating that the precincts included are of the precincts as defined at the date of the redistricting? Doesnt the State Election Commission have to approve any precinct boundary changes? Peterson did that precinct consolidation effort a few years ago but was stymied by the State blocking it. Clerks cant change precincts willy-nilly!

Anonymous said...

It may be the clerk's fault. It may even be the clerk's responsibility. It doesn't matter, though: you can't represent a district that you don't live in. See Ind. Const. Art. IV, Sec. 7:

No person shall be a Senator or a Representative, who, at the time of his election, is not a citizen of the United States; nor any one who has not been for two years next preceding his election, an inhabitant of this State, and, for one year next preceding his election, an inhabitant of the district whence he may be chosen. Senators shall be at least twenty-five, and Representatives at least twenty-one years of age.

Anonymous said...

Damn it, Gary, I lova 'ya more than my luggage, but sometimes, you wander into oblivion, and this is one of them. (Apologies to Olympia Dukakis)

I posted earlier that it was a candidate's responsiblity to know where (s)he lives. That remains true.

I said nothing about your individual voter's rights or residency. Clerks can and do err on those issues.

I spoke of candidates for office.

It was and is the candidate's sole responsibility. Anything less is insane. If a clerk makes an address or precinct error, the correct residence must be brought forth, and wherever that residence is, there's your answer. I understand, in this case, by a hundred feet or so, it's in the wrong district.

If a legtimate error is made by an election official, it doesn't change the situation. The correct residency, by the state-drawn districts, must be determined.

As the poster above noted, a legislator cannot represent a district where (s)he does not live.

It is really pretty simple.

And this representative's removal from the legislature should be swift and unyielding. It won't change the face of things much--it's a solid GOP district. But the precinct committeepersons will not select, at a caucus presided over by the state party chair or his designee.

It'll stay Republican, in all liklihood. Just not the incumbent Republican. He can buy a house across the street and run next year.