SPECIAL REPORT: Indiana’s high court hears toll road appeal June 13

| 6/9/2006

Plaintiffs appealing a county court ruling against them in their fight against the Indiana Toll Road and Gov. Mitch Daniels' "Major Moves" transportation plan, filed a 33-page brief Thursday, June 8, with the Indiana Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court agreed to hear the plaintiffs' appeal of a ruling on a preliminary motion in the case that requires the Indiana residents to post a $1.9 billion bond before continuing their constitutional challenge. The high court is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments on that appeal Tuesday, June 13.

The plaintiffs, which include the Citizens Action Coalition and Indiana residents - including OOIDA Member Randy Nace - are contesting a ruling by St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis. On May 26, Scopelitis ruled that the lawsuit is "public" by statute and his order that they pay the bond.

The court challenge began with the plaintiffs' contention that "Major Moves" and the lease of the Indiana Toll Road to a private investor was unconstitutional because of how the $3.85 billion up-front lease payment would be spent.

Daniels and the Indiana Finance Authority are the principal defendants in the case. They contend, in briefs filed with the court, that the finance authority is a "municipal" corporation and that the Indiana Toll Road belongs to that corporation and not the state of Indiana.

The appeal ascended to the state Supreme Court based on a motion by Daniels' legal team in an effort to get the high court to uphold Scopelitis' ruling.

Daniels is hoping to sit down with the private investor group, Cintra-Macquarie of Spain and Australia, to formally sign the 75-year lease on June 30.

Cintra-Macquarie wants assurance from the state that the lease will not be held up in litigation at the time of the signing or the investor group could walk away from the deal, as provided for in a clause in the deal.

The 33-page brief filed by the plaintiffs contends that the Indiana Finance Authority is not a municipal corporation; the lawsuit should not be considered "public" by statute; and that Scopelitis had misapplied the public lawsuit law in his ruling.

- By David Tanner, staff writer