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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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