Groups call for Massa to recuse himself from Rockport case

INDIANAPOLIS - Several citizens' groups are calling for Ind. Supreme Court Justice Mark Massa to recuse himself from the Indiana Gasification case.

The ongoing legal battle over the $2.8 billion Rockport coal-to-gas plant, approved by former Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2011, has garnered fierce opposition from Vectren Corp., the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association.

Now, members of the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition and Spencer County Citizens for Quality of Life have filed a motion asking for Massa to recuse himself or be dismissed from the case.

The petitioners contend that the personal relationship between Massa and Mark Lubbers, Indiana Gasification project manager, is such that Massa would "have problems being impartial."

Massa and Lubbers both worked for the Daniels administration, as general counsel and senior advisor, respectively. In addition, petitioners contend that Massa and Lubbers have expressed "mutual admiration, if not affection for each other."

Other opponents have pointed out that Massa was serving as Daniels' general counsel while Rockport deal was being negotiated.

“This is not a case of mere background associations, frequent appearances before the court, or mere allegations of bias,” the motion states. “Instead, this is a case in which an ordinary person could not avoid having a reasonable doubt that Justice Massa would have problems being impartial given the totality of the circumstances.  Justice Massa therefore has a duty to promote public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary by recusing himself.” 

Massa has so far declined to comment on whether he will remove himself from the case.

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