Court upholds Indiana legislative boycott fines

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld fines levied by House Republicans on Democrats for their 2011 legislative walkout.

The court split 3-2 on an opinion issued Tuesday finding that the constitutional separation of powers bars the courts from interfering in internal legislative decisions. The state's highest court approved a request that the case be dismissed.

Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the majority that it is not the court's role to assess punishments within the legislative branch of government. Justices Loretta Rush and Robert Rucker dissented. The pair wrote that the House's "discretion to punish its members" doesn't include withholding pay.

Majority House Republicans ordered the state auditor to withhold the fines from Democrats who spent weeks at an Illinois hotel in protest of the right-to-work bill.

Court watchers said justices rarely intervene in other branches' business.

"And you recall a few months ago, the Democrats, or the counsel for the Democrats, said, asked the court to order mediation and get involved. And the court said no. And at the end of the original hearing earlier this year, Justice Dickson kind of went to the extraordinary step of encouraging the parties to work out their own differences," said RTV6 Political Insider Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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