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Court consolidates Lake County voter cases

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The Indiana Supreme Court has stepped in to settle conflicting rulings from two Lake County courts regarding early-voting sites in East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond, deciding that consolidating the cases to proceed in Lake Superior Court is the "most orderly approach."

In the order State of Indiana ex rel., John B. Curley, et al. v. The Lake Circuit Court and Hon. Lorenzo Arredondo, as judge thereof, No. 45S00-0810-OR-555, issued late Tuesday evening, the majority noted that normally such actions are viewed with disfavor and the court doesn't grant writs of mandamus and prohibition when there is an adequate remedy through the appellate process; however, it noted the conflict in this case between the Circuit and Superior courts' decisions warrants the high court's attention.

Realtors John B. Curley, as chairman of the Lake County Republican Committee, and Jim B. Brown, as a member of the Lake County Board of Elections and Registration, filed an action Oct. 2 in Lake Superior Court against the Lake County Board of Elections and Registration and Judge Thomas Philpot, not individually but as the Lake County Clerk. On Oct. 6, the United Steelworkers District 7; Hammond Teachers Federation Local 394, American Federation of Teachers; Earline Rogers; and Roxanna Luco filed an action in Lake Circuit Court against the Board of Elections and Registration.

The board removed the Superior Court case to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana; while the case was pending before the District Court, the Superior Court entered a temporary restraining order directing the board not to open early-voting sites in Lake County. The Circuit Court entered a temporary restraining order three days later directing the board to open early the voting sites.

The plaintiffs in the Superior Court case filed the original action contesting the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court over the similar lawsuit.

Citing Indiana Trial Rule 42(D), Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Brent Dickson, Frank Sullivan, and Theodore Boehm ruled that the Circuit Court case should be consolidated with the Superior Court case, with both matters proceeding before the Superior Court on a consolidated basis. The majority upheld the preliminary injunction entered by the Circuit Court Oct. 14 directing the board to open early-voting sites, and instructed the parties to exercise any right to a change of judge.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented from the majority's decision, writing he would deny the requested issuance of the writ and allow the Circuit Court's restraining order to stand. Curley and Brown, who sought this order, didn't request or mention that they wanted the cases consolidated. In their petition, the only relief they requested was to have the Circuit Court lawsuit dismissed, wrote Justice Rucker.

Justice Boehm concurred in result with the majority in a separate opinion, but agreed with Justice Rucker that ordinarily this type of writ would be denied because dismissal under Trial Rule 12(B)(8) is not mandatory. However, because the conflicting rulings between the courts causes uncertainty for voters as to whether they can vote before Election Day, he concurs with consolidating the cases in order to expedite the resolution.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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