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Supreme Court will hear candidate certification dispute

January 1, 2007
The candidacy of a Cass Circuit judge is now going before the Indiana Supreme Court - even though the candidate in question has been a sitting judge for this entire year.

Justices have granted transfer in J. Bradley King, et al. v. Leo T. Burns, et al., 09A02-0610-CV-847, which questioned the candidacy of judicial office-seeker Leo Burns in last year's primary and general election.

Burns, who was selected to fill the vacancy in the November 2006 ballot after the May primary, was not certified by the state because the Democratic county chair filed documents at the wrong office and didn't get the necessary notices to the state for Burns' name to go on the ballot. Despite the filing error, Burns gained an injunction in September ordering the state to certify his candidacy. The Indiana Election Division appealed Cass Circuit Judge Julian Ridlen's ruling and the Court of Appeals denied that Jan. 31.

In the meantime, however, Burns' name appeared on the ballot and he won in the Nov. 7 election over a Republican rival.

The three-judge appellate panel in January wrote, "We decline to disenfranchise the voters of Cass County by overturning their decision that Burns should be their circuit court judge, based on a technical violation of a law that had no practical effect on the validity of the Nov. 7, 2006 general election."

Noting that the election division could point to no practical consequences of Burns' form being filed incorrectly, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

"Burns clearly was the Democratic Party's chosen candidate .... That choice was communicated accurately to Cass County voters. They elected Burns to office. He is qualified to hold that office," the court wrote. "The 'eminently practical doctrine' formerly known as 'de minimis non curat lex' .... Proclaims that the law does not redress trifles."
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