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Plaintiff loses federal challenges to voter ID law

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A federal judge ruled against a Cumberland man in his federal challenge to Indiana's voter identification law, but did remand his pending state claims to a Marion Superior Court for consideration.

U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana granted summary judgment April 16 for Marion County, Marion County Clerk Beth White, and the State of Indiana in Robbin Stewart's lawsuit challenging Indiana's statutory requirement that a person voting at the polls has to present a government-issued photo ID. Stewart has an acceptable form of identification but believes having to present it violates his rights.

Stewart argued in Robbin Stewart v. Marion County, et al., No. 1:08-CV-586, that the voter ID law violates the First, Fourth, 14th and 24th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. His challenges based on the First and 14th amendments are foreclosed by Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, 458 F. Supp.2d 775 (S.D. Ind. 2006), and Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008). His challenge that the voter ID law is a poll tax also failed because the 7th Circuit already noted that it's not a poll tax in Crawford.

"Stewart already has a driver's license, which is a valid form of photo identification. Therefore, he has not been required to incur any extra costs to obtain a valid photo identification to present when voting and does not have standing to challenge any alleged fees which might be incurred by a person not similarly equipped with photo identification," wrote Judge McKinney.

Stewart's Fourth Amendment challenge failed because those rights aren't affected. Stewart had a choice when voting in person - present his driver's license and vote, or refuse to present it and choose to cast or not cast a provisional ballot. The encounter was consensual and had no impact on his rights, wrote the judge.

"Even if requiring identification at the polls does constitute a search, it still does not violate the Fourth Amendment," wrote Judge McKinney. "... the State of Indiana has an important interest in preventing voter fraud. Asking every voter who appears at the polls for identification in a consistent manner is a lawful means of serving this interest."

The federal judge decided not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Stewart's pending claims under Indiana state law and remanded the case to Marion Superior Court for consideration. Last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the voter ID law violates Article 1, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution in League of Women Voters of Indiana, et al. v. Rokita, 915 N.E.2d 151 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009). The case is currently pending before the Indiana Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case March 4.

Stewart, an attorney, was suspended in May 2009 for not fulfilling CLE requirements.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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