INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge on Friday rebuffed
three Indiana lawmakers who asked to defend parts of the state's
immigration law in court after the attorney general declined to do so.
Judge Sarah Evans Barker, who has barred the 2011 law from taking effect
until she can rule on its constitutionality, said allowing the senators to
intervene would violate the state Constitution's declaration that the
attorney general's office is state government's sole legal representative.
three individual legislators to intervene here in their official
capacities as State Senators not only would conflict with this
well-settled state law, but would provide the legislators a trump card
with respect to the Attorney General's statutorily derived discretion in
this context," Barker wrote.
Senators Mike Delph, Brent Steele and Phil Boots — who authored the
immigration law — had asked Barker to let them defend parts of the law
Attorney General Greg Zoeller would not.
office has said it would recommend Barker strike down most of the portions
of Indiana's law that would allow police to make warrantless arrests based
on certain common immigration documents. The office said last year's U .S.
Supreme Court decision striking down similar sections of an Arizona law
rendered those parts of Indiana's law invalid. However, the office said it
would defend a provision allowing for local police to arrest immigrants
for whom federal authorities have issued a 48-hour detention order.
who are represented by lawyers from the Immigration Reform Law Institute
in Washington, had argued the warrantless arrest provisions in Indiana's
and Arizona's laws are "vastly different," and that Indiana's law is
consistent with the Supreme Court's decision. They also argued they have a
right to intervene as defendants because the law won't be allowed to take
effect if it isn't defended, which they say effectively robs them of the
votes they made in the Legislature.
"I take my
responsibility to defend the statutes the Legislature passes from legal
challenge as an important role of the office I hold. The court recognized
that the Office of the Attorney General has faithfully defended all
provisions of this statute until the U.S. Supreme Court last June said
that state-level warrantless arrest laws are preempted as
unconstitutional," Zoeller said in a statement Friday. "We are pleased
that Judge Barker's ruling has underscored and reiterated the
responsibility of my office to defend state statutes as is our solemn
senators did not immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press
seeking comment. A Reform Law Institute spokeswoman said the attorney who
represented the senators was unavailable to comment.