Open Door Law: “Any person” can sue … or not?

A judge may decide by Friday whether Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz can proceed with her Open Door Law complaint against the State Board of Education. Attorney General Greg Zoeller says she can’t — that only he can sue on her behalf. According to news coverage, the AG may have case law on his side.

But what does the Open Door Law say? “An action may be filed by any person in any court of competent jurisdiction  … ” And, “The plaintiff need not allege or prove special damage different from that suffered by the public at large.”

Presumably Ritz is a person. You wouldn’t think she would give up her right of access to the courts by being elected to public office. Of course, my record on decoding what state law really means isn’t very good. Lacking a law degree, I tend to think the law means what it says, when obviously that’s not always the case.

Article 1, Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution, for example, says, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” That would seem nullify Indiana’s voucher program, which plainly gives state money to religious institutions.

But the state Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom declared the constitution really means that no money should be drawn from the state treasury for the benefit of any religious or theological institution – unless certain entitled parents decide which religious institution gets the benefit.

So maybe the provision that anyone can sue under the Open Door Law means anyone except a state official who, according to Greg Zoeller, shouldn’t be allowed to sue. We’ll find out soon.

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