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IN justices decide governor's role in state lawsuit

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Governor Mitch Daniels does not need to testify in a suit between the state and IBM. Lawyers for both sides presented oral arguments Monday morning.

Indiana contracted with IBM to process welfare applications.  But Governor Mitch Daniels canceled the contract in 2009 after citing problems with the process.  IBM and the state are now suing each other, trying to reclaim costs.

The company wanted to question Daniels, and a trial judge agreed, allowing the governor to be deposed.  IBM attorney Jay Lefkowitz says Daniels was deeply involved with the contract.

“We’re entitled to question the governor about that evidence - that he has material evidence that’s relevant - directly relevant – to the contract case here.”

But Peter Rusthoven says that’s, in his words, “flatly wrong.”  Rusthoven represents the state and successfully argued if the governor is compelled to testify, it opens a door that shouldn’t be opened.

“You can make this argument about any of the thousands and thousands of cases where the state is either sued or being sued.  The governor is the chief executive, he’s the ultimate decision-maker.  That doesn’t mean that he has relevant evidence for which he can be compelled to testify.”

The Court did not include an opinion with its decision. The justices only cited a state law about immunity from testify in a civil matter, which includes the governor. A formal opinion is expected at a later date.