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Lake Circuit candidate can stay on ballot for now

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A Highland attorney is back on the ballot for a Lake Circuit judge opening after he received a temporary restraining order that says the Indiana Election Commission shouldn’t have removed his name as a candidate for the general election.

Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele signed an order Monday putting judicial prospect William I. Fine back on the Nov. 2 ballot. Fine is the Republican candidate for the seat being vacated at year’s end once Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo retires. Merrillville Town Judge George Paras won the Democratic primary in May. No Republican was on the primary ballot, so county party chair Kim Krull in June named Fine to fill that ballot vacancy.

But some questioned his candidacy based on the party chair’s ability to name a candidate herself rather than conducting a caucus as the party rules stipulate. The four-member Indiana Election Commission on Sept. 2 couldn’t reach a decision and deadlocked with a 2-2 vote, meaning Fine was removed from the ballot unless a court action said otherwise.

At that hearing, Fine’s counsel wanted the commission to deny the challenge outright because they didn't believe the state board had jurisdiction to decide the matter because it was a party rule issue. An attorney for Michael Lambert – one of several people who are challenging how Fine was chosen – questioned the Republican Party rules and state statute allowing that to happen without a party caucus and someone else having a chance at the ballot spot.

Represented by Indianapolis attorney David Brooks, Fine appealed late last week in Marion County where the state commission is based.

In a four-page order, Judge Keele determined that immediate action was needed because the local election board will be mailing the absentee and early ballots this week. Fine has a “reasonable likelihood of success on the merits” but likely wouldn’t be able to have a hearing on this matter before that ballot deadline, so he’s without any adequate remedy of law and this restraining order is warranted, the judge ruled.

Specifically, Judge Keele noted that no basis in law exists to interpret state party rules in a way to override a statute and that the election commission doesn’t have the subject matter jurisdiction to endorse state party rules, let alone at the expense of a statutory grant of power to a county chair.

“The injury to Petitioner in removing his name from the ballot in violation of Indiana and Federal law outweigh the potential harm to the IEC or Lambert resulting from the granting of a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction,” Judge Keele wrote, noting that the public interest would be best served by granting both.

A consolidated hearing on Fine’s request for a permanent injunction and declaratory relief to remain on the ballot has been set for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 23.

In response to questions from Indiana Lawyer, Fine wrote that he’s confident his appeal will succeed on the merits and that the state commission doesn’t have the authority to keep him off the ballot.

“Allowing such an intrusion into the political process is inconsistent with rights contained in both the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions,” he said in an e-mail. “The actions taken by the Lake County GOP and its Chairman were entirely appropriate and were consistent with longstanding Indiana law and a proper reading of the Indiana Republican Party Rules. A strong two party system is healthy for a vibrant, diverse community like Lake County and I am proud that our voters will have a choice as to who is elected their next Circuit Court judge.”
 

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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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