Indiana AG wants Ritz lawsuit tossed

2013-10-24T15:00:00Z 2014-05-14T17:54:17Z Indiana AG wants Ritz lawsuit tossedDan Carden, (317) 637-9078
October 24, 2013 3:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The lawsuit filed Tuesday by State Superintendent Glenda Ritz against the members of the State Board of Education appears headed for a quick dismissal.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed legal paperwork Thursday with the Marion Circuit Court declaring he did not consent to Ritz's lawsuit and asking that it be thrown out.

State law requires the attorney general prosecute or defend all lawsuits involving state government unless he grants explicit, written permission for a state agency or official to use in-house or outside counsel.

"In the instant case, the attorney general has not provided written consent to (Ritz's) attorneys Bernice A.N. Corley and Michael G. Moore to represent the state plaintiff in the complaint filed in her official capacity," Zoeller writes. "Absent such authorization, Indiana law prohibits (Ritz) in her official capacity to employ counsel to seek declaratory or injunctive relief."

Zoeller spokesman Bryan Corbin said the Republican attorney general is not taking sides in the dispute between the Republican-appointed state school board and the elected Democratic schools chief.

Corbin said Zoeller is representing the interest of state government itself by asserting his legal authority over lawsuits filed by state officials or in the state's name.

Speaking to reporters, Ritz said she will contest Zoeller's attempt to throw out her lawsuit, but also remains willing to work with Zoeller to remedy the board's alleged violation of the Indiana Open Door Law.

"In the event that an out-of-court resolution is not possible, the courts may be the department's only recourse," Ritz said.

Ritz sued the 10 members of the state education board she chairs claiming they held an illegal meeting, without her knowledge, by drafting and submitting a letter requesting a legislative agency calculate 2011-12 school grades instead of her Department of Education.

She wants a judge to rule the board's decision to make a request to the Legislature is "official action," which requires public notice of deliberations, and to bar the Legislative Services Agency from compiling school grades unless the board follows proper procedures in a subsequent request.

State school board member Tony Walker, of Gary, has called Ritz's lawsuit "a political ploy." He also has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

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