Court rules on Merit Board election

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals ruled today that John Buncich can retain his elected position on the Lake County Sheriff's Merit Board. In Lake County Sheriff's Merit Board v. John Buncich, et al., the court affirmed the trial court's decision in favor of Buncich's complaint for declaratory judgment and preliminary injunction, and in the alternative a temporary restraining order to prevent a new election.

Buncich ran for a vacant position on Lake County Sheriff's Merit Board in June 2006 and received 83 of the 120 votes cast. Prior to the election, it was determined there were 168 eligible voters. Lake County Police Department Chief Marco Kuyachich and Merit Board recording secretary Geraldine Larson concluded that Buncich did not win the election because he did not receive a "majority" of the votes of the LCPD members, even though he had the majority of votes cast. They argued 85 votes were needed to qualify as the winner, and the Merit Board voted to hold another election.

Buncich filed a complaint in the Lake Superior Court, asking the trial court to declare him the winner of the election and prohibit the Merit Board from taking any action until the vacant seat was filled. The trial court ruled in Buncich's favor.

In today's opinion authored by Justice Patrick Sullivan, the Merit Board sought an appeal stating the trial court should have dismissed Buncich's action because "an action in the nature of quo warranto is the only proper remedy." An action in quo warranto may be filed "[w]hen a person usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office or franchise in Indiana ..." I.C. §34-17-1-1(1).

According to the applicable statute, Judge Sullivan writes that there is no person against whom an action in quo warranto could be brought because no one occupies the seat on the Merit Board.

The Merit Board also argued that while Buncich received the majority of votes cast, he did not receive the majority vote of all the 168 members, thus he did not win the election, citing Indiana statute §36-8-10-3(b). Breaking down the statute, the court found that the word "majority" describes "vote" not "the members of the county police force." It concluded that based on I.C. §36-8-10-3(b), a successful candidate only needs to obtain a majority vote of the members who do vote. Judge Sullivan wrote also that the trial court did not error in using extrinsic sources to modify the plain meaning of the statute - in this case Robert's Rules of Order.

The Merit Board also argued that there was insufficient evidence before the trial court that Buncich was qualified to hold office as a member of the Merit Board. But because this issue was only argued and no evidence was introduced, the Court of Appeals ruled the Merit Board could not inject this issue at such a late stage.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.