Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

July 5, 2013

BRIAN HOWEY: What is the cost of controversy?

Indiana has paid ACLU more than $900,000 since 2008.

(Continued)

Since 2001, the office of attorney general has seen its budget increase from about $11.3 million in 2001; to $16.81 million in 2009, the year Zoeller took office; to $19.03 million in 2013-14. The state budget is $15 billion annually. The AG budget that went into effect on July 1 is almost $3 million more than the budget passed in 2011.

“It is hard to do billable hours because our business model is almost opposite that of the private sector,” Zoeller said of his 150 attorney office. “We have thousands of cases to manage. You move resources around and designate resources on where the work flow is. Nobody gets bonuses for running up a bunch of hours. It’s just the opposite.”

Zoeller said that in some cases the courts will award a fee.

“So when we win a case and they ask for fees, they’ll ask for a billable track. We do go back and try and calculate, and we always base it on the billing rate of the firm against us,” he said.

Zoeller confirmed he intends to approve payment of $155,000 in attorney fees to ACLU of Indiana, which prevailed in Buquer v. Indianapolis, the legal challenge to the 2011 immigration statute.

The most sensational case was the 2011 defunding of Planned Parenthood that passed by wide margins in both the Indiana House and Senate and was signed into law by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels.

In October 2012, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, by a 2-1 decision, agreed with the lower court that had blocked enforcement of the Indiana law. The 7th Circuit panel reversed part of the lower court’s ruling of last year.

Zoeller explained: “If you pay money into a corporate structure and they’re able to use the fungibility of money so that it pays the salaries and all those kinds of things can be moved around, you really can’t avoid the indirect support of taxpayers for the abortion services that aren’t supposed to be funded at all with taxpayer money. These were unasked questions. By definition, that’s why we thought it was worthy of a Supreme Court review because there is no case that cites the unasked answers.”

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