Greg Zoeller

Indiana

Judge dismisses Ritz's lawsuit against the state board

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, left, at Friday's Indiana State Board of Education meeting. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg dismissed state Superintendent Glenda Ritz's lawsuit against the Indiana State Board of Education today, saying she could not initiate a lawsuit without consulting with Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Ritz last month sued the other 10 members of the Indiana State Board of Education objecting to their effort to enlist legislative leaders to help calculate A to F grades for public and most private schools. Board members had complained Ritz was not working fast enough to issue the grades for schools; she said she had to wait for more data. After Friday's state board meeting, Ritz said she had not determined her next move. "This case was filed because I believed the board took illegal action outside of the public arena and that needed to be stopped," she said. "I am disappointed in today's ruling and concerned for all Hoosiers that have their lives affected by unelected boards, particularly those that act, perhaps, in secret." The suit was the apex of a long-running series of disputes between Ritz, the only Democrat in statewide office, and the rest of the board, all of whom are appointed by Republican governors. The suit argued that the board's letter to legislative leaders violated the state’s transparency laws. By jointly signing it, Ritz argued, the board effectively made a decision outside of a public meeting, which her suit contended a violation of state law. But Zoeller quickly moved to have the suit dismissed by arguing Ritz could not use Indiana Department of Education lawyers to file the suit. Zoeller argued that Ritz could only initiate a lawsuit with assistance from his office. Rosenberg agreed. In his decision, he said Ritz's arguments were "not consistent with the underlying purpose" of state law and that Zoeller's arguments were "more plausible."
Indiana

Judge to Ritz's lawyers: How can she sue without Zoeller?

Ritz did not attend today's hearing, at which her lawyers argued her suit against the State Board of Education should be allowed to proceed. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg had a tough question for state Superintendent Glenda Ritz today: Why should he let her lawsuit against the Indiana State Board of Education go forward? That was just one of the queries Rosenberg put before the department's staff lawyers that Ritz used to represent her over Attorney General Greg Zoeller's objections. If Ritz's legal team can't convince Rosenberg that they have a right to stick with the case, the suit that riled both sides of the aisle in the statehouse could be over by next week. Ritz last month sued the other 10 members of the Indiana State Board of Education in a protest of their push to move forward with calculating A to F grades for schools faster than Ritz had advocated. The lawsuit blew the lid off simmering tensions among Ritz and state board members, who disagree on a swath of education issues, from accountability to how to promote students between grades. Ritz's lawsuit targeted their latest disagreement. State board members have been frustrated that A to F grades for schools have not yet been released. But Ritz argues that problems with online testing last spring are the cause of the delay. Still, board members wrote a joint letter to legislative leaders asking them to have the Legislative Service Agency calculate the grades while Ritz was out of the country. In her lawsuit, Ritz argued that the move violated the state's transparency laws. By jointly signing a letter to lawmakers, she argued, the board effectively made a decision outside of a public meeting, which her suit contends is a violation of state law. In court today, discussion focused on whether Ritz has the right to file a lawsuit at all. The case was originally made by Zoeller, who asked the court to remove Ritz's attorneys from from the case, a step that would effectively end the suit altogether. Zoeller argued that Ritz could only initiate a lawsuit with assistance from his office.