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COA: Candidate remains on ballot

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The Republican winner of the primary election for Indiana House of Representatives District 74 will remain on the ballot for the general election, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Charles R. Wyatt challenged Republican candidate Susan Ellspermann’s declaration of candidacy for the primary election. In her declaration, she certified she’s affiliated with the Republican Party because she voted as a Republican in the most recent prior primary election, but she had actually voted as a Democrat in the 2008 election.  

After discovering her vote, she filed an amended declaration. Ellspermann’s motion to reconsider failed as well as Wyatt’s challenge to her candidacy because votes on those motions split 2 to 2. By Indiana Election Commission rules, she remained on the ballot and beat her challenger, Angela Sowers.

Before the election, Wyatt filed suit in Marion Superior Court, but the court didn’t rule before the election. It denied his request for a preliminary injunction and denied both parties’ motions for sanctions. Wyatt appealed the denial of his request for injunctive and declaratory relief; Ellspermann appealed the denial of her request for attorney’s fees.  

Wyatt failed to meet his burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the public interest would not be disserved by granting the preliminary injunction, wrote Senior Judge Patrick Sullivan. He noted if the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Wyatt, it would nullify the primary election results.

Caselaw has held that the purpose of election law and the courts are to secure voters an opportunity to freely and fairly cast ballots and prevent disenfranchisement. The statute at issue in this case doesn’t provide that compliance with its provisions is essential to a valid election. Ellspermann testified that she had forgotten she had voted as a Democrat in the 2008 primary and she historically had voted Republican. Wyatt didn’t submit any evidence to counter her explanation.

“Under these circumstances, the irregularity in Ellspermann’s declaration and any misconstruction of Indiana Code section 3-8-2-7 by the IEC or the Marion Superior Court cannot justify reversal of the trial court’s denial of a preliminary injunction because it would contradict the will of the electorate and disenfranchise voters,” wrote Judge Sullivan in Charles R. Wyatt, et al. v. Thomas E. Wheeler, et al., No. 49A02-1006-PL-636.

The judges also found even if the per se rule applied to this case, which it does not, it wouldn’t provide grounds for reversal because Wyatt would still have to show that the issuance of the injunction wouldn’t be contrary to the public interest. They also affirmed the denial of declaratory relief because if they rule that the IEC and Marion Superior Court had misapplied the relevant statutes, then Ellspermann’s victory would be invalid. That outcome would violate the purpose of election laws, wrote Judge Sullivan.

The Court of Appeals affirmed denial of Ellspermann’s request for attorney’s fees and denied her request for appellate attorney’s fees.

 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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