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Expedited hearing to be sought after justices again deny transfer

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The attorney for a man challenging the inclusion of a Lake County judicial prospect’s name on the general election ballot will seek an expedited hearing with the Indiana Court of Appeals after justices Wednesday denied a second emergency request for transfer.

Michael W. Back of Crown Point told Indiana Lawyer this morning he plans to file for the expedited hearing with the appeals court on behalf of his client, Michael J. Lambert. A Republican and Winfield Town Council member, Lambert is challenging the candidacy of Highland attorney William I. Fine because Lake County Republican Party chairman Kim Krull named Fine the party’s candidate for Lake Circuit Court. Judge Lorenzo Arredondo decided not to seek re-election and leaves the bench at the end of this year.

“The Republican County chair exceeded her authority,” said Back, who added that his client wants only for the state Republican Party rules to be followed, meaning that the party would have conducted a caucus to determine the candidate.

No one from the Republican Party ran in the primary. Merrillville Town Judge George Paras won the Democratic primary.

Time is of the essence because of the Nov. 2 election, Back acknowledged. He also recognized that if they succeed in essentially having Fine’s candidacy nullified, that Lake County voters will have only one choice.  

“If he, Mr. Fine, really had an interest in this office, he should have run in the primary,” said Back.

After Fine was put on the ballot in late May, Lambert filed a challenge, which led to the Indiana Election Commission’s deadlocked vote of 2-2, meaning Fine “lost,” Back said. Then, Fine filed in Marion Superior Court to challenge the jurisdiction of the state election board.

That’s nonsense, said Back, adding,  “That’s their job. I just find that a very interesting twist.”

“From our perspective, it’s critical – especially in Lake County – that the election process is properly followed,” said Back. “If it’s not, it taints the election.”

The Indiana Supreme Court twice this week denied motions to accept jurisdiction over Michael J. Lambert v. William I. Fine, No. 49A04-1009-PL-00556. On Sept. 17, the appellants filed an emergency Appellate Rule 56(A) motion for the high court to accept jurisdiction over the appeal from Marion Superior Court. The Supreme Court denied that motion Tuesday, noting the appellate jurisdiction remains with the Indiana Court of Appeals. Lambert filed a renewed emergency Appellate Rule 56(A) motion that same day, and the justices denied the request Wednesday afternoon.

Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele had reversed the election commission decision Sept. 13 and granted a temporary restraining order and late last week issued a final order that stops the state from keeping Fine off the ballot. Judge Keele noted that no basis in law exists to interpret state party rules in a way to override a statute and that the election commission doesn’t have the subject matter jurisdiction to endorse state party rules, let alone at the expense of a statutory grant of power to a county chair.

There has been no ruling on Fine’s motion to dismiss.
 

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