Questions from Supreme Court justices point to heart of annexation law case involving Bloomington: Was the governor the right person to sue?

In 2017, Bloomington filed suit against Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, over a law enacted by the state legislature as a part of the biennial budget bill.

As Bloomington’s city attorney, Mike Rouker, described the legislation on Thursday morning, during oral arguments in front of Indiana’s Supreme Court, the law “prohibited Bloomington and only Bloomington from taking any further action toward its ongoing municipal annexation…” Continue reading “Questions from Supreme Court justices point to heart of annexation law case involving Bloomington: Was the governor the right person to sue?”

Thursday morning: Internet stream for Bloomington’s arguments in front of Indiana Supreme Court on annexation law

On Thursday morning, oral arguments will be heard by Indiana’s Supreme Court in the case involving Bloomington’s constitutional challenge to a 2017 law that suspended its in-progress annexation process.

Bloomington won a favorable ruling on both of its constitutional arguments in the lower court. Briefly put, the court agreed with Bloomington that the law was impermissible special legislation and that it violated the single-subject rule.

It’s Gov. Eric Holcomb, the defendant in the case, who has appealed to the state’s highest court.

People who want to watch the city argue the case in front of the state’s highest court can watch the online video stream on Thursday, Jan. 9, starting at 8:58 a.m. That’s two minutes before the five justices are scheduled to hear arguments.

City attorney Mike Rouker will present Bloomington’s case, as he did during the lower court hearing in late March last year. Continue reading “Thursday morning: Internet stream for Bloomington’s arguments in front of Indiana Supreme Court on annexation law”

Oral Arguments in front of Supreme Court scheduled for Bloomington’s lawsuit over annexation law: Jan. 9, 2020

Oral arguments have now been scheduled by Indiana’s Supreme Court in the lawsuit that Bloomington filed against Gov. Eric Holcomb in May 2017.

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Th case stems from a law enacted by the state legislature that year, which effectively ended Bloomington’s annexation process that was underway.

Each side will have a chance to argue in front of the state’s highest court on Jan. 9 next year.

The state legislature incorporated a law on annexation into its biennial budget bill for 2017, which effectively ended the process Bloomington was working through at the time to add geographic area to the city.

In May 2017, Bloomington filed suit challenging the law on two separate constitutional grounds—that it violated the state constitution’s single-subject rule, and that it violated the constitutional provision against impermissible specific legislation.

The Monroe County circuit court’s ruling, made in April of this year, was in favor of Bloomington on both of its arguments. The state appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Final briefs were filed with the Supreme Court at the end of September.

Neither the city nor the state filed a motion asking for oral arguments to be held. But the Supreme Court’s order, signed by its chief justice, Loretta Rush on Nov. 13, states, “The Court has determined the above-captioned case merits oral argument.”

The total time allotted for arguments in front of the five-member Supreme Court is 40 minutes, to be divided equally at 20 minutes a side. The location of the arguments will be in the Supreme Court’s chambers at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The appointed hour is 9 a.m.

[Previous coverage by The Beacon on Bloomington v. Holcomb ]

Bloomington’s wait begins: State’s appeal of annexation ruling now fully briefed

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Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis, late August 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Continuing its methodical path through the judicial system is an appeal by the governor to the Indiana Supreme Court. The state is seeking to  overturn a lower court ruling made in April, which found that a 2017 law blocking Bloomington’s annexation process was unconstitutional on two separate grounds.

On Friday, the State of Indiana filed its reply to Bloomington’s response to the state’s initial papers. With that, according to the state’s online document system, the case in front of the state’s highest court is now “fully briefed.” Continue reading “Bloomington’s wait begins: State’s appeal of annexation ruling now fully briefed”

Bloomington responds to State of Indiana’s appeal brief in 2017 annexation case: “Nonsense.”

On Wednesday, Bloomington filed with the Indiana Supreme Court its response to the State of Indiana’s appeal of a lower court ruling made in April, which found that a 2017 law blocking Bloomington’s annexation process was unconstitutional on two separate grounds.

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The word “nonsense” is highlighted in blue in this screenshot from Bloomington’s brief filed with the Supreme Court on Aug. 28, 2019, but not in the actual brief.

Bloomington’s brief uses words like “nonsense,” “preposterous,” and “outlandish” in its response to some of the State’s arguments.

The law, enacted by the state legislature in its 2017 session, was included as part of the biennial budget bill that year. The law’s inclusion in the budget bill is one reason the Monroe County Circuit Court found it to be unconstitutional. The annexation law violated the state constitution’s “single subject” rule for legislation, according to the circuit court.

The circuit court found that the 2017 annexation law also violated the state constitution’s prohibition against “special legislation.” It’s a prohibition that doesn’t rule out legislation affecting just one municipality, which the 2017 annexation law does. Both sides agree that the 2017 law affected only Bloomington and was designed that way. The legal question is whether the special law falls within the definition of “permissible special legislation”—a kind of question on which courts have ruled in the past.

So the first briefs, which have now been filed by both sides with the Indiana Supreme Court, include dozens of citations to previous rulings on the question of what counts as permissible special legislation.

Among the previous cases to which the two sides are giving different interpretations is Dortch v. Lugar (1971), which allowed for the Unigov plan for Indianapolis and Marion County to be implemented. Continue reading “Bloomington responds to State of Indiana’s appeal brief in 2017 annexation case: “Nonsense.””

State’s first brief now filed with Indiana Supreme Court in appeal of lower court decision on special Bloomington annexation law

After a couple of quiet months, late July has brought some activity in the legal proceedings about the state legislature’s enactment of a 2017 law, as a part of the biennial budget bill. The law blocked specifically Bloomington’s attempt in 2017 to annex some land into the city.

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The green area is the total of a few separate annexation areas proposed by the city of Bloomington. The basic outline shape is the boundary of Monroe County.

Indiana’s attorney general has filed the first brief on behalf of Gov. Eric Holcomb, in an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court, which seeks to overturn a lower court ruling made earlier this year in April. The lower court ruling, in favor of Bloomington, found that the law violates two parts of the state’s constitution: the prohibition against special legislation; and the single subject rule.

After the state’s notice of appeal was filed, a four-week extension was granted by the court for filing the state’s first arguments. The deadline was this past Thursday, which is when the state’s first brief  was filed with the Supreme Court. Continue reading “State’s first brief now filed with Indiana Supreme Court in appeal of lower court decision on special Bloomington annexation law”

Bloomington annexation lawsuit update: Deadline for appeal brief extended until July 25

In 2017, Indiana’s state legislature passed a law terminating the annexation process that Bloomington was undertaking at the time. The city of Bloomington filed suit and in late April won a judgement in the Monroe Circuit Court against the state: The court concluded that the annexation law, passed as a part of the budget bill, violated two different parts of the state constitution.

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The state of Indiana has already taken the first step to appeal the Monroe County court’s ruling—to give formal notice of appeal.

The state’s deadline for the next step, filing a brief with the state’s Supreme Court, would have been this Thursday, June 27. The time limit is 30 days after the date when the trial court clerk gave notice that the record was complete—which was May 28.

But the state filed a motion—which was unopposed by the city of Bloomington, and granted by Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush—for an extension of the deadline by four weeks. So the state now has until July 25 to file its brief. Continue reading “Bloomington annexation lawsuit update: Deadline for appeal brief extended until July 25”

Judge says legislation that halted Bloomington’s annexations in 2017 is unconstitutional for two reasons

In a ruling issued late Thursday afternoon, Judge Frank Nardi found that legislation enacted by the Indiana state legislature in 2017—a law that halted the city of Bloomington’s annexation efforts—is unconstitutional for two separate reasons.

The city brought suit against Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb two years ago over the issue. Nardi’s ruling agreed with Bloomington’s position on both substantive points. First, Nardi found that the legislation was impermissible special legislation under the state constitution, because there were no unique characteristics of Bloomington that justified singling out only Bloomington as the one city that needed to pause its annexation efforts for five years. Second, Nardi found that the legislation violated the single subject clause of the state constitution, because it was included in the biennial budget bill of 2017. Continue reading “Judge says legislation that halted Bloomington’s annexations in 2017 is unconstitutional for two reasons”

Question of burden adds some flavor to oral arguments in Bloomington’s annexation lawsuit

At a Tuesday afternoon hearing lasting around an hour, the two sides in an ongoing annexation lawsuit between the City of Bloomington and Gov. Eric Holcomb presented oral arguments.

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The Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at 301 N. College, where a March 26 hearing on the City of Bloomington’s annexation lawsuit took place.

Judge Frank Nardi did not issue a ruling from the bench. The March 26 hearing was held at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.

The City of Bloomington filed the lawsuit in 2017 over the state legislature’s decision to build into its budget bill a change to state annexation law. It was a change that effectively singled out Bloomington and paused any annexation plans by the city for five years.

Bloomington contends that because the new annexation law was incorporated into the 2017 biennial budget bill, it violates the State Constitution’s requirement that legislation be confined to a single subject.

Bloomington’s lawsuit also states that the new annexation law violates the State Constitution’s clause prohibiting “special” legislation. The constitutional claim involving special legislation hinges not merely on the fact that the new annexation law applies only to Bloomington. The claim arises from the city’s contention that the attempted justification for the law’s unique application is not adequate.

To some extent, the two sides spent their time on Tuesday rehashing arguments they’d already submitted to the court.

The oral presentations, however, featured a slightly different flavor from the written briefs—especially on the part of the city, and its claim that the new annexation law is unconstitutional under the special legislation clause. The ingredient that city attorney Mike Rouker added to his oral remarks was “burden.” Continue reading “Question of burden adds some flavor to oral arguments in Bloomington’s annexation lawsuit”

Holcomb admits allegation that he was elected governor of Indiana, and other insights from court filings in Bloomington annexation lawsuit

In mid-January, Judge Frank Nardi requested an extra courtroom at the Monroe County Circuit Court for a half-day hearing on the afternoon of March 26, for a case filed by the City of Bloomington against the governor of Indiana.

Even though Judge Nardi is not expected to issue a decision from the bench on Tuesday, the hearing is likely to lead eventually to the first ruling on the substance of the case. It was was filed almost two years ago and deals with Bloomington’s annexation efforts.
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The lawsuit stems from a 2017 action by the state’s General Assembly to build into its budget bill a change to state annexation law that effectively singled out Bloomington and paused any annexation plans by the city for five years. The court documents in the case are accessible to the public through MyCase. (Search by case for 53C06-1705-PL-001138. Or download most of the court records in a single compressed file here: City of Bloomington vs. Holcomb.)

Bloomington filed a lawsuit, contending that the General Assembly violated two different parts of the state’s constitution: One limiting bills to single subjects and another prohibiting special legislation.

This article offers a general overview of those constitutional questions and includes a review of some preliminary rulings and points of agreement between the two parties, as well as some of the technical maneuvers that have taken place before the March 26 hearing. Continue reading “Holcomb admits allegation that he was elected governor of Indiana, and other insights from court filings in Bloomington annexation lawsuit”