Indiana News

Ritz Lawsuit Raises Procedural Issues


State school superintendent Glenda Ritz's lawsuit against State Board of Education members raises not just legal issues, but some knotty procedural ones.


Federal courts have taken a dim view of one state agency suing another. But Ritz's claim that the state board violated the Open Door Law has been filed in state court -- and is aimed at her 10 fellow board members individually, not as a board.

And IUPUI McKinney School of Law Professor David Orentlicher says neither side is a typical state agency. The governor appoints all board members except the superintendent, but the board functions as an independent body. And Ritz herself has independent authority as superintendentl.

Ritz's status as a separately elected official also muddies the question of whether department attorneys can file the suit. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that agencies which answer to the governor need the consent of the attorney general to use their own counsel.

Once the procedural questions are cleared away, the case is likely to turn on definitions. Department of Education attorneys contend a letter to legislative leaders signed by all board members except Ritz constitutes "official action" on policy and therefore violates the Open Door Law, even if members didn't convene as a group to sign it. And attorneys contend the A-to-F school grades the letter asked the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency to calculate go beyond the "information" the LSA is legally authorized to provide.

» Ritz Sues State Board of Education Over Pursuit of A-F Data (10-22-13)


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