Appeal planned on judge's order to remove secretary of state

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Marion Circuit Judge Lou Rosenberg ruled Wednesday that Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was ineligible to be a candidate for the state office in the November 2010 election because he allegedly committed voter fraud. Now, an appeal is being planned and many believe the case is on a fast-track to the state’s highest court.

Indiana Democrats called for an investigation two months before the 2010 general election after discovering White, a Republican, voted in the May 2010 primary while registered to vote at his ex-wife's house in Fishers.

In June 2011, the three-member Indiana Recount Commission voted unanimously to let White keep his job. The state Democratic Party appealed that decision in court and Rosenberg found the record shows White wasn’t residing at the home he listed for voting as is statutorily required.

“The fact that Mr. White knowingly registered in the wrong precinct is sufficient to render him ineligible for the office of Secretary of State,” Rosenberg wrote, remanding the case to the Indiana Recount Commission.

Rosenberg ordered the commission to remove White from office and appoint Democrat Vop Osili, who was the second-highest vote getter in 2010. State statute at the time of the election puts him in the position, although Osili has since been elected to the City of Indianapolis and Marion County City-County Council and expects to take office Jan. 1.

Recount Commission spokesman AJ Feeney-Ruiz said White remains secretary of state for the time being and that the commission wouldn’t be able to take up Rosenberg's ruling before late next week because of the holiday, uncertainty about the commission’s membership and 48-hour notice requirements.

"The secretary of state is still the secretary of state and will continue to do his work as secretary of state as this process plays out," Feeney-Ruiz said.

White’s counsel, Jonathan Sturgill, filed an emergency motion to stay on Friday, and Rosenberg has stayed the removal order until a hearing Jan 3.

The Office of the Indiana Attorney General represents the Recount Commission, and spokesman Bryan Corbin said the state agency will seek appellate review.

“One obligation of our office is to represent state government boards such as the Indiana Recount Commission in lawsuits, and when a board’s unanimous administrative decision is overturned by a court, the order should be reviewed by a higher court,” he said. “We will seek a stay of the court’s ruling and are in communication with our client, the Recount Commission, to discuss the process of an appeal.”

Indianapolis attorney Tom Wheeler, who temporarily chaired the Recount Commission after White was statutorily precluded from that role, expects the judge’s ruling will be immediately appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Wheeler isn’t sure whether he retains the Recount Commission chair and has asked the AG for a formal legal opinion on his status. Indiana Republican Party Chair Eric Holcomb appointed Wheeler as chairman under Indiana Code 3-12-10-2.1(e) temporarily, but the commission issued a final determination in the White matter on June 28 and it is unclear whether Wheeler remains chairman or the secretary of state has resumed that position.

This civil action is separate from the ongoing criminal case in Hamilton County, where a grand jury indicted White on voter fraud and other charges in March. White had been trying to postpone the civil recount matter until after the criminal case was completed, but those efforts failed. Most recently, Hamilton Superior Judge Steven Nation refused a motion to dismiss the criminal case and it is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 30. Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is representing White on the criminal charges and has said publicly that the civil office-holding case would not impact the criminal voter fraud case.

Indianapolis attorney Bill Groth with Fillenwarth Dennerline Groth & Towe, representing the Democrat Party in the Recount Commission matter, said the next step is not known and it is premature to make any predictions.

He referred to the Indiana General Assembly’s change in state law in early 2011, which revised statute to give the governor appointment power to choose a secretary of state successor in this type of removal situation. The change came as a result of the White matter, and legislators made the move to apply to future situations after some concerns arose about making the revision retroactive to apply to the White-Osili matter. But a question could arise about which version of the statute applies now, Groth said.

“We’re really in unchartered territory here. I certainly don't want to prejudge the outcome of the criminal case, but were a guilty verdict to result, there could be a colossal legal battle over whether Vop Osili or a gubernatorial appointee would be entitled to assume the vacant office. In that eventuality and also assuming the Supreme Court did not reverse, we will be vigorously contending Osili has the superior claim to the office,” Groth added.



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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.