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Elected official loses appeal in voter registration removal

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A Roseland Town Council member couldn’t convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that a District judge was incorrect in dismissing his lawsuit filed after he was removed from the voter registration list while incarcerated.

“This case is about small town politics, a bare-knuckle brawl, and the right to vote. But the appeal before us is limited to drier subjects: sovereign immunity, and the pleading requirements for a civil rights action against a Municipality,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote in the opening paragraph of David R. Snyder v. J. Bradley King, Trent Deckard, Linda Silcott and Pam Brunette, 13-1899.

David Snyder was a town councilman when he got into a fist fight with a fellow councilman in 2007 during a council meeting. He was convicted of misdemeanor battery and was put on probation. He violated the terms of his probation a year later and was incarcerated for a period of time. While incarcerated, St. Joseph County Voter Registration Board members Linda Silcott and Pam Brunette, sent him a letter saying he would be removed from the voter registration list while imprisoned.

Snyder was free to re-register after getting out of jail, but declined to do so. When he was turned away from a special election in 2009, he filed this lawsuit against Silcott and Brunette, along with J. Bradley King and Trent Deckard in their official capacities as co-directors of the Indiana Election Division. The lawsuit led to the Indiana Supreme Court answering a certified question as to whether misdemeanor battery is an “infamous crime” under Article II, Section 8 of the Indiana Constitution.

The Indiana Supreme Court agreed that Snyder’s disenfranchisement was not authorized under the particular provision at issue, but held that the Indiana Constitution separately authorized the assembly to temporarily disenfranchise any incarcerated convict. Judge William Lawrence then dismissed the case, citing in part Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 358 (1978).

“We acknowledge that the right to vote is fundamental, and we do not take any case alleging its infringement lightly. But it is incumbent on a litigant to identify a proper defendant for his suit and to properly plead an action against that defendant. Snyder has not done so. Because Snyder has waived any challenge to the dismissal of the State Defendants, and because he has failed to state a claim against the County defendants, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of his suit,” Kanne wrote.

Chief Judge Diane Wood concurred in result, writing the reason Synder fails is not because a claim against the county was impossible under the state and county laws governing voter registration, it is because he failed to plead the correct causes of action.
 

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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