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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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  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.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  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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