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Attorneys ask justices to consider voter ID case

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In an expected move, the Indiana Attorney General's Office has asked the state Supreme Court to consider whether the 4-year-old voter identification law is constitutional.

That happened Friday, and today the attorneys who'd persuaded the Indiana Court of Appeals to strike down the statute planned to file a transfer petition seeking Supreme Court review.

So begins the briefing period that will further expand the legal reasons various attorneys think the Indiana Supreme Court should weigh in on the constitutionality of the state's voter ID law, which is now in flux after the ruling in League of Women Voters of Indiana and League of Women Voters of Indianapolis Inc. v. Todd Rokita, in his official capacity as Indiana Secretary of State, No. 49A02-0901-CV-40.

A unanimous Indiana Court of Appeals panel of Judges Patricia Riley, James Kirsch, and Paul Mathias reversed Sept. 17 a ruling by Marion Superior Judge S.K. Reid, who late last year upheld the state statute and found it didn't violate Indiana Constitution Article 2, Section 2 and Article 1, Section 23. Instead, the appellate judges found the law "regulates voters in a manner that's not uniform and impartial," and as a result they instructed the trial judge to enter an order declaring it void.

While this is the first time the state justices could consider this issue as it relates to the Indiana Constitution, the federal courts - U.S. Supreme Court, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana - have all upheld the state statute adopted by the General Assembly in 2005.

In its transfer petition, the AG's office urges the state justices to accept the case on grounds that this case signifies an issue of great public importance that it notes "protects the legitimacy of elections," "enjoyed 75 percent public support at the time of enactment," and has been upheld at each federal court level.

The main arguments in the petition are:

• The League wrongfully sued the Indiana Secretary of State, who does not enforce the statute; the Court of Appeals dismissed this issue after finding he was a satisfactory defendant.

• The in-person and absentee voting processes are inherently different in ways that matter to the usefulness of the voter ID requirement.

• The nursing home precinct exemption reasonably relates to inherent characteristics of residents who vote where they live.

• "The Voter ID Law is self-evidently constitutional, so there has never been any point in proceeding with discovery or evidentiary submissions," the brief states. "The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals, however, responded to the motion to dismiss not simply by reinstating the case, but by ordering judgment against the State. The State has not even been permitted to answer the complaint, much less put the League to its burden or come forward with evidence. In this regard, the decision below departs so significantly from law and practice that it independently justifies granting transfer."

Indianapolis attorney Bill Groth at Fillenwarth Dennerline Groth & Towe told Indiana Lawyer he planned to file the League's transfer petition today. The petition relates to the appellate court's finding that the law isn't a substantive voting qualification but a procedural regulation, Groth explained.

Each side will be given a chance to file a set of response briefs before the justices take the issue under advisement. No timeline exists for them to make a decision.

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  1. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  2. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  3. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  4. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  5. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

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