INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s governor’s office has racked up more than $500,000 in legal fees for its successful legal fight against an attempt by state lawmakers to give themselves more power to intervene during public health emergencies.
The state paid nearly $520,000 to Indianapolis law firm Lewis Wagner for its representation of Republican Governor Eric Holcomb in the lawsuit, according to records from the state auditor’s office.
Holcomb hired the law firm as Republican state attorney general Todd Rokita, whose office typically represents the state in court, sided with the GOP-dominated Legislature in the dispute. The law sought to give legislative leaders the power to call the General Assembly into “emergency session” after the governor declared a statewide emergency.
The governor’s office on Friday referred to earlier comments in which Holcomb said the lawsuit was necessary because actions taken by the Legislative Assembly under the law could have been challenged as unlawful and lead to “significant uncertainty.” in times of emergency.
“From the outset, this case presented important procedural, statutory and constitutional issues that only the courts could answer,” Holcomb said.
The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with Holcomb, issuing a unanimous decision in early June that the law violated the state constitution.
The governor’s office first signed a contract with the law firm in July 2021 for up to $195,000. This contract was amended in November and June to increase the maximum amount to $525,000.
The attorney general’s office, which represented the Legislative Assembly in the dispute, did not track the time its staff spent on the case or engage outside assistance, Rokita spokeswoman Molly Craft said. .
Despite the state Supreme Court’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional, Rokita said in a statement that the governor’s bill “was a waste of hard-earned Hoosier taxpayer money.”
“As we highlighted in this case, Indiana taxpayers are already paying the attorney general’s office to litigate these types of issues on their behalf,” Rokita said.
The state Supreme Court ruling settled the more than year-long legal battle over the law that was a response to Holcomb’s efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Holcomb’s lawyers argued that the state constitution only authorizes the governor to call the Legislative Assembly to meetings to consider new laws outside of its annual sessions which begin in early January and adjourn until the end of April.