ILNews

Delayed COA appeal declared moot

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal by an election board and political candidates who challenged a candidate's ability to run as an Independent because the candidate had already lost in the election when the appeal finally made it before the appellate court.

The appeal, Lake County Board of Elections and Registrations, Myrna Maldonado, Richard Medina, and Juda Parks v. Anthony Copeland, No. 45A04-0710-CV-560, came before the Court of Appeals after the November 2007 election because of an error in the clerk's office, which rendered the appeal moot.

Incumbent Anthony Copeland wanted to run as an Independent for an at-large seat on East Chicago's Common Council. He was originally elected to that seat in 2003 as a Democrat and at the time of filing his paperwork to run as an Independent, he was still the chairman of the East Chicago Democratic Committee.

Myrna Maldonado, Richard Medina, and Juda Parks (challengers) were also running for council seats and opposed Copeland's running as an Independent. They alleged under Indiana law, Copeland was not allowed to run as an Independent while still affiliated with the Democratic Party.

The Election Board voted to remove Copeland's name from the Nov. 6, 2007, ballot. An emergency hearing was set in September 2007, in which the trial court ruled there was no evidence presented by the challengers that would disqualify Copeland from running as an Independent. The court granted a preliminary injunction, ordering the Election Board to reinstate Copeland as a candidate. The challengers tried to have the Indiana Supreme Court accept the case, but the court denied the appeal.

The Court of Appeals in mid-October 2007 issued an order granting the challengers' motion to consolidate and motion to expedite. Their brief was due Oct. 18, 2007; Copeland's was due Oct. 24, 2007.

For reasons unknown to the court, the case wasn't transmitted to the appellate court until January 2008, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. The clerk of the courts online docket shows both sets of briefs were submitted either before or on their due dates; however, the appellant brief was filestamped Oct. 24, 2007, and Copeland's brief didn't initially have a stamp. It was later back-filestamped to Oct. 24, 2007.

Because of error on the part of both parties in filing, the clerk's office could not filestamp the briefs until they were complete, wrote Supreme Court Administrator and Clerk of the Appellate Courts and Tax Courts Kevin Smith in an e-mail to Indiana Lawyer. The challengers submitted the brief without a copy of the appealed judgment; they fixed the defect on Oct. 24, 2007, which is when it was filestamped. Copeland left out a copy of a page of his brief and failed to attach a proper certificate of service to show he served the challengers with the missing page, so his appeal was not filed.

"The following day, (Copeland) tendered an additional nine copies of the page missing from his brief, along with an updated certificate of service; however, the updated certificate of service was also insufficient to show that he had served the Appellants with the missing page. Accordingly, again his brief was not filed. At that point, we should have discussed with the Court of Appeals what it wanted for us to do. We failed to do so, however, and that was our fault," wrote Smith.

The reason the case continued to be delayed was human error and a flaw in the case management's calendaring, so the case was not transmitted to the Court of Appeals as it should have been, according to Smith. Copeland's brief was not filestamped with the date Oct. 24, 2007, until staff from the writing judge's chambers in January 2008 inquired on the case; his brief remained incomplete at that time.

"Thereafter, we investigated the causes that led to our oversight and uncovered the holes in our various systems that created the ability for this to happen. We immediately took steps to plug those holes," Smith wrote.

Smith wrote that even though those holes are now plugged, if a case does fall through an unforeseen crack in the system, counsel is encouraged to contact the clerk, deputy clerk, or Administration Office of the Court to find out if the case has been transmitted.

Because the case, which was supposed to be expedited, didn't appear before the appellate court until after the election, the appeal is rendered moot, wrote Judge Vaidik. Copeland was on the ballot and lost the election. Also, the appellate court chose to not rule on the case because even if the issues in the appeal are of great public importance, they are unlikely to recur.
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  1. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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