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Justices put school board member back on Hammond mayoral ballot

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The Indiana Supreme Court late Thursday reversed a decision from a Lake Superior judge and put a nonpartisan school board member back on the ballot for the Hammond mayoral run in the upcoming primary election.

An emergency transfer decision file-stamped at 4:10 p.m. came in George T. Janiec v. Lake County Board of Election and Registration, No. 45S00-1104-MI-228, with the justices unanimously ruling that the county election board is enjoined from keeping Janiec’s name off the ballot. Any absentee or early ballots cast by 4 p.m. April 21 remain valid, and the rest of the ruling details how the remaining votes should be handled.

Local voting machines must be reprogrammed to include Janiec’s name for the May 3 primary voting, and the parties must “immediately agree on a mechanism” for absentee and early voters who’ve received but not yet turned in ballots without his name to have the option to vote for Janiec if they choose.

This changes how the county had been handling the issue after an election board decision in early March set this all in motion.

The Democratic members of the Lake County election board removed Janiec from the ballot, finding that state statute prevents local school board members from political campaigning and saying that Janiec can only run for mayor if he first resigned from the nonpartisan school board. Janiec refused and appealed in court, and Judge Jesse Villalpando on March 30 declined to overturn the election board’s decision.

Judge Villalpando ruled that the election board acted consistently with legislative authority and local school board ethics policy disallowing this practice, despite the fact that two other school board members in Lake County are currently running for city council seats and it’s been done in the past in a state Senate race.

Attorneys for Janiec immediately appealed and asked the Supreme Court to grant emergency transfer because of the approaching election and early voting that began April 4.

“The Court finds no basis in statute or law for disqualifying Janiec on this basis,” the justices' per curiam decision says, citing its 2009 decision in Burke v. Bennett, 907 N.E.2d 529, 532, that impacted the Terre Haute mayoral race and held the disqualification statute must be construed in harmony with the longstanding policy on giving people the right to have free and equal elections.

Highland attorney William Fine, who is representing Janiec, said this court ruling reaffirms settled law and practice within the state of Indiana. He didn’t immediately know how many ballots would remain valid without Janiec’s name, or whether that issue could resurface down the road following the primary election. Janiec had run against Democratic incumbent Tom McDermott in 2007 and lost by less than 500 votes.

A 12 p.m. Monday deadline is set for the parties to agree on a way to handle the remaining votes on already distributed ballots, and the court will then resolve any remaining disputes.
 

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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  5. 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!

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