Letter writer's mistakes prove my column's point

2012-06-16T00:00:00Z Letter writer's mistakes prove my column's point nwitimes.com

Jennifer Klug’s June 3 letter managed to commit at least seven errors in the space of 130 words. The letter writer forgets that the job of the Indiana attorney general by law is to defend the state statutes the Legislature passes from lawsuits plaintiffs file.

The people’s elected representatives in the Indiana General Assembly have passed new state laws restricting Medicaid funding to abortion providers, regulating immigration ID procedures, allowing school vouchers and prohibiting mandatory union dues for non-members. As Indiana's attorney general, I did not get to vote “yes” or “no” on any of these proposed laws in the Legislature; that’s not my job. But once legislators pass a new statute, then the attorney general as the state’s lawyer has a legal obligation to defend that statute from any legal challenge. It’s part of the job description, regardless of who serves as attorney general.

As the law firm for state government, the 144 attorneys in my office must appear in court when our client is sued; they can’t stand mute when a private plaintiff such as the ACLU files a legal challenge against our client (a statute). All attorneys take an oath to represent their clients diligently. Let us correct some of the other errors in Klug’s letter:

  • My office and I have not “intervened in the case against Planned Parenthood.” We are obligated to defend House Enrolled Act 1210, the Medicaid funding law the Legislature passed, from a lawsuit Planned Parenthood itself filed. We have provided a similar legal defense for other state laws that private plaintiffs have challenged.
  • The attorney general’s office did not represent former Secretary of State Charlie White in his legal battles over ballot eligibility and vote fraud charges. White was represented by his private lawyers. My office and I instead represented the three other members of the Indiana Recount Commission, a state government agency, also named in the civil case.
  • My office and I have not “filed pleadings against the Lunch Pail Republicans.” We are currently investigating whether the actions of individuals affiliated with that organization violated federal or state laws. Specifically it appears they made campaign solicitation calls using caller ID software programmed with a fake phone number –- that of a government office –- to disguise their identity. No lawsuit or charges have been filed in court at this time.

All these cases are part of my job as Indiana Attorney General, just as it is my job to defend the sovereignty of state government by having Indiana join 25 other states in questioning the constitutionality of the federal health care law –- a question the U.S. Supreme Court soon will decide.

The letter writer overlooks the fact that my May 17 guest column was about an entirely separate topic, the criminal justice system and how my colleagues and I work to ensure fairness for crime victims and defendants without regard to political party.

But Klug’s letter underscores the central point of my column: that some people don't understand the nonpartisan role the Indiana attorney general’s office serves. Whether it's defending the statutes passed by the Legislature or representing the prosecution in appellate court, the duties of my office require the best of our skill and ability -- regardless of our political views.

- Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller

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