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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 8:17 pm

Pence lawsuit challenges Obama

Niki Kelly The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence on Wednesday directed state Attorney General Greg Zoeller to join 17 other states in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s recent executive order on immigration.

But Pence will have to foot the bill.

That’s because instead of Zoeller’s office directly representing the state, he gave Pence’s office permission to hire an Indianapolis law firm to do so. Pence will have to pay the lawyers out of his own budget.

"Although the Attorney General’s Office typically represents state government in lawsuits, from time to time, state officeholders and agencies make a specific policy request for legal representation that can most effectively be provided through using outside counsel," Zoeller spokesman Bryan Corbin said. "State statute permits state entities to hire outside counsel with the attorney general’s consent, and our office agrees that using outside counsel at the trial court level is appropriate in this lawsuit."

Zoeller said in a letter of response to Pence that he continues to be concerned about unilateral executive action to address matters entrusted to Congress.

Zoeller’s office would still have to consent to any settlements or appeals of the lawsuit.

"I commend Governor Mike Pence and Attorney General Greg Zoeller for joining many other states in the lawsuit to fight President Obama’s unconstitutional executive action on immigration," said U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd. "These states are rightly challenging the White House’s disregard for representative democracy and the separation of powers created by our Founders."

Earlier in the day, Pence’s letter to Zoeller formally directed the attorney general "to use any and all legal means necessary to represent the state of Indiana as a plaintiff in the suit being filed by the State of Texas today."

Obama recently announced executive action designed to spare as many as 5â ¯million people living illegally in the U.S. from deportation.

"While reasonable people can differ on ways to improve our nation’s broken immigration system, the President’s unilateral action was an unacceptable end run around the democratic process and joining other states in pursuing legal recourse to challenge this action is the right thing to do," Pence said. "This lawsuit is not about immigration. It is about denying states such as ours the opportunity to be represented in policy making through our elected members of Congress."

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said, "I support this action by Governor Pence because the president’s executive action on immigration well exceeded his Constitutional authority. President Obama’s role is to faithfully execute the law, not alter or ignore it as he sees fit. I am hopeful that the legal challenge filed by Indiana and many other states will be successful."

Pence encouraged Obama to rescind his executive order and begin work with Congress to pass legislation securing the nation’s borders and updating immigration laws.

Texas is taking the lead on the litigation, likely lessening the cost of Indiana’s involvement.

"We have no way to estimate the cost of any litigation at the outset," Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said.

nkelly@jg.net