Thursday, March 24, 2011

Indiana Chief Justice Sides With Mob Rule?

I was a bit surprised that Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard took the bait and weighed in on a potential court challenge involving the ongoing stalemate in the Indiana General Assembly after the minority Democratic members walked off the job more than a month ago and have remained in exile in Urbana, Illinois, effectively shutting down any legislative progress this session. Shepard reportedly made remarks dismissing any potential legal challenge on the walkout while speaking to a Kiwanis Club in Valparaiso, as well as his view the courts would not get involved if it prevented lawmakers from redrawing legislative districts based on the new census data. The Northwest Indiana Times reports:

The chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court says he doesn't expect the state's courts to get involved in the legislative stalemate created by Democrats' more than month-long boycott of the Indiana House.


Most House Democrats fled to Illinois on Feb. 22 to prevent House Republicans from voting on bills they consider anti-labor by denying them a needed quorum.

The Times of Munster reports that Chief Justice Randall Shepard told a Kiwanis group in Valparaiso on Wednesday that the constitutional requirement that two-thirds of the representatives be present to take legislative action is not susceptible to a legal challenge.

Shepard also said he does not expect the courts to get involved if the stalled session results in lawmakers failing to redraw the state's congressional and state Senate and House boundaries.
Arguably, Shepard has strengthened Democrats' resolve to continue their walkout indefinitely by stating in advance his view the courts could offer no relief. Essentially, he is saying the Indiana Constitution allows a minority to completely shut down state government, even preventing other branches from carrying out their constitutional duties. What if the House Democrats prevent the legislature from adopting a new budget? How can state government offices remain open and function without a state budget? How will state employees, including judges, be paid? Is the House effectively without a court remedy to enforce collection of the fines it is imposing on Democratic members for their failure to show up to work--a remedy specifically authorized by the Indiana Constitution?  Wouldn't there be court-ordered redistricting in the absence of legislative action for state legislative maps as mandated by the Indiana Constitution? Congressional districts would be drawn by a Republican-led commission if the legislature failed to act, but new state legislative maps would still need to be drawn. If a minority can simply walk off the job and hold the entire state hostage indefinitely, we have ceased to be governed by the constitutional rule of law and replaced by mob rule. His comments are frankly quite troubling. He is typically more guarded with what he says publicly.

2 comments:

Paul K. Ogden said...

Why is he talkikng on a matter that could appear before the court?

Advance Indiana said...

Exactly.