Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Attorney General Greg Zoeller Refuses to Enforce Indiana's Forfeiture Law to Recover Money for Schools, Instead Targets Whistleblower


I was disappointed to learn that Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller will attempt to represent county prosecutors in the qui tam lawsuit we filed against Indiana prosecutors who are not following Indiana’s forfeiture law. Certainly we will vigorously oppose the Attorney General’s attempt to represent the prosecutors in the suit, which is an action filed by a plaintiff on behalf of the State of Indiana. The law does not authorize the Attorney General, the attorney for the State of Indiana, to represent a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff for the benefit of the State’s citizens.

Contrary to Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s claim he “[s]tands with law enforcement,” Mr. Zoeller is standing for the principle that he will represent state officials “zealously” even when he knows perfectly well those officials are violating the law and keeping money that is supposed to go to supporting the state’s schools.

In his press release, Mr. Zoeller makes the outlandish claim that “prosecutors have great discretion to apply assets recovered under civil forfeiture to overall law enforcement costs…” That interpretation would obliterate the legislature’s requirement that excess civil forfeiture proceeds be paid to the Common School Fund. Civil forfeiture proceeds will never cover the entire county’s law enforcement costs, which would include the police and prosecutor’s budget for the county. While the method by which “law enforcement costs” are calculated is open to debate, it is obvious that the General Assembly did not mean all law enforcement costs in the county have to be covered before a dime has to be paid to the Common School Fund.

During the last two and a half years, most of which was under Attorney General Zoeller’s watch, the state’s 90 prosecutors paid only $95,509 to the Common School Fund pursuant to the state’s civil forfeiture law. It should have been millions. Only five counties during that time paid anything. While Attorney General Zoeller talks about the need for legislative changes – which nobody disputes – the fact is Attorney General Zoeller has never sought to enforce the law. Rather it took a private citizen filing a lawsuit to bring his lack of enforcement to light. Instead of viewing this as an opportunity to work toward a settlement and recover money for the state’s schools while ensuring future compliance with the law, Attorney General Zoeller has instead chosen to target the whistleblower who pointed out the fact that prosecutors are not following the law.

As the elected Attorney General, Greg Zoeller took an oath to uphold the law. He has duties under the law including providing honest, objective legal interpretations and ensuring that state officials are following the law. We would ask that he live up to those responsibilities and work toward a resolution of this matter that results in the recovery of money for the state’s school children and ensures that prosecutors in the future follow the law.

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1 comment:

dissolutionedattorney said...

You sure do talk the talk, but you don't walk the walk. Do you really have the right to be "disappointed" in any one but yourself, Paul? Their is no honor among thieves, whether they be the run of the mill thief, the police, the prosecutors, or the attorneys who brought the action. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, hopefully you will very soon.