Judge: DOC must pay $538K in ‘egregious’ death penalty records case
Marion Circuit Judge Sheryl Lynch awarded $538,000 in attorney fees to plaintiffs who sued the DOC to obtain records pertaining to the lethal injection protocols that would be used at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City in the event an execution was carried out. Lynch’s order was issued Wednesday.
Washington attorney Katherine Toomey, joined by attorneys from Plews Shadley Racher & Braun, successfully sued the department to obtain information on drugs the DOC could potentially use in a lethal injection. But rather than comply with Lynch’s prior order to disclose the information under the Access to Public Records Act, the DOC used an 11th-hour Statehouse maneuver to slip a so-called secrecy statute into the Indiana budget bill in the closing days of the 2017 General Assembly. The law inserted into the budget bill shielded DOC from disclosing the information, contravening Lynch’s order of summary judgment in favor of Toomey.
Lynch subsequently struck down that law, and her order issued Tuesday spelled out the highly unusual nature of the case. Lynch said the hefty award of legal fees was justified “given the procedural history of this APRA request… .”
“The Department in its actions going to the General Assembly to successfully obtain a retroactive statute without advising the Court and Toomey after the Court issued its Summary Judgment Order October 24, 2016 in favor of Toomey, and filing an improper appeal … was egregious,” Lynch wrote.
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