ILNews

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. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

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  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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