INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – The Indiana Supreme Court denied an attorney’s request to hear his public-records lawsuit seeking emails from Vice President Mike Pence’s time as governor of the state, ending a two-year battle for the documents.
Indianapolis attorney William Groth asked the state’s highest court to hear the case, after the Indiana Court of Appeals reached a divided 2-1 ruling in favor of Pence in January.
Groth specifically sought emails pertaining to Pence’s 2014 decision to hire outside counsel, at the expense of taxpayers, in a multi-state lawsuit against then-President Barack Obama’s immigration orders.
While some documents were released, a “white paper” attachment was not, and Groth sued for its release.
The white paper document referred to legal information about a Texas lawsuit that Pence joined against the United States in 2014, targeting executive orders passed under Obama.
The Indiana Court of Appeals, in siding with Pence, found that the document was privileged attorney-client work material and not public information under the state’s Access to Public Records Act.
Besides its denial to hear the case in an April 27 order, the Indiana Supreme Court also denied Groth’s request to remand the case back to the lower courts amid revelations that Pence used a personal AOL email account to conduct public business during his time as governor.
Groth sought to ensure that Pence had complied with the original public records request, and that the AOL account had been searched and included as part of the request.
“I don’t care to speculate on why the court declined to become further involved in this matter. But its refusal to hear the statutory issues we raised in this case does represent yet another ratcheting down of the public’s right to know what its elected officials are up to and a further weakening of Indiana’s transparency laws,” Groth told Courthouse News.
With its denial to hear the case, the state’s high court left intact a part of the lower court’s ruling rejecting Pence’s claim that responses to public records requests were not subject to judicial review.
Groth said after the appeals court ruling in January that Pence’s argument that the judiciary could not review the executive branch’s records request decisions was “Nixonian.”
The Indiana Supreme Court’s order denying Groth’s request was signed by Chief Justice Loretta Rush, and included no explanation for the decision.