Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Massa Stays on Rockport Case Despite Controversial Connections

Mark Massa
Mark Massa had no judicial experience before he was tapped to become Indiana Supreme Court Justice Mark Massa by Governor Mitch Daniels.

Then-Governor Daniels passed over hundreds of qualified judges across the state and picked his personal friend and his former Chief Counsel to be a Supreme Court appointment.  Many people thought it was a personal payback for Massa's candidacy for Marion County Prosecutor in 2010.  Even some Republicans whispered to me that Massa's heart was never really in that campaign and was only running to help cover the then-Governor's behind as the Marion County Prosecutor's position has the ability to investigate state government.

Fast forward a few years.  The Rockport gasification plant case is coming before the Indiana Supreme Court.  I won't dig too deep into the case.  Eric Bradner of the Courier-Press does a nice job here.  As Bradner describes it, the key question is how gas rates are set in the state.  Lots of money stands to be made by the developers of the plant.  However, concerned Hoosier lawmakers passed regulation that would pretty much override the agreement.

On the side of the developer is the director of the plant project, Mark Lubbers.  Lubbers is a former Daniels Administration member and, according to the Indianapolis Star, the man responsible for Massa's foray into politics some 30 years ago when both worked for Governor Robert Orr.  Also at issue, according to the Star, is Massa's position as Daniels' Chief Counsel when legislation initially related to the green lighting of the plant was passed.  Given these apparent red flags, the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Spencer County Citizens for Quality of Life and Valley Watch filed a petition asking for Massa to recuse himself.

The Star reports this evening that Massa has refused to step aside.

When you go to the polls in a couple of years, and you have that question on retaining Mark Massa as a Supreme Court Justice, remember this case.  Massa had a chance to step aside in the best interest of this case and let it be decided by judges who are less personally connected to it.  He did not do that.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Massa is incapable of judging fairly in this case.  He certainly is.  Even if he writes the perfect opinion well grounded in law, how much confidence will you have if Massa sides with the developers of the plant and his opinion perchance decides the case?

If you ask me that question, I can tell you that I will have little to none.

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