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Zoeller defends actions

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller came out swinging today in defense of his decision to back away from an Indiana immigration law he believes is unconstitutional.

Zoeller in July said he would recommend that U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker strike down most of the portions of the Indiana law passed in 2011, which enables police to make warrantless arrests based on certain common immigration documents.

The attorney general believes a U.S. Supreme Court ruling rendered those sections of the Indiana law invalid when it ruled on a a similar Arizona statute.

But not everyone has accepted his judgment, and he has been a target on some blogs.

"Some people questioned whether this decision violates my obligation to my state clients. Some have even questioned my professional ethics as an attorney," Zoeller said in an editorial piece he released to newspapers around the state Thursday. "As state government's lawyer, the AG's Office represents multiple 'clients' who all hold different views on important legal issues. For all of us in state government, our first responsibility is to the Constitution and the people.

"I have had the unenviable task of explaining this fact to government officials who disagreed with my decisions. I respect their views; but the oath I took as AG means I must acknowledge that at times the law is not what we might want it to be, and must shepherd state legal resources in a responsible manner."

Zoeller also said disagreements are healthy and welcomed.

"I have been warned that some individuals seeking attention might attempt to manufacture a misleading complaint about the work that my office and I have done in representing Hoosiers," he said. "That would be disappointing; such political stunts are the height of cynicism and help create further public distrust."

Interestingly that statement was prepared before three senators filed a motion Wednesday to have a federal judge allow them to defend the parts of the law Zoeller won't.

The senators -- Mike Delph, R-Carmel; Brent Steele, R-Bedford; and Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville -- say Indiana's law differs from Arizona's. They want the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform to intervene on their behalf.

Some on Thursday also questioned whether outside counsel is even legally allowed without Zoeller's consent -- something that will likely be part of his response to the motion filed in court.

"I have a clear conscience," Zoeller said in the op-ed. "I rest easily knowing I made the right decision, to defend the parts that are defensible, to not defend the part that is clearly unconstitutional, to uphold the Constitution and to speak truthfully to the people of Indiana whom I serve."

To contact Niki Kelly email her at nkelly@jg.net or follow her on Twitter @nkellyatJG.