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Judge finds Marion County judicial election system unconstitutional

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A federal judge in Indianapolis has ruled that the statute outlining how Marion Superior judges are elected is unconstitutional. Because a stay has been issued, the ruling will not impact next month’s election.

Chief Judge Richard Young in the Southern District of Indiana issued the ruling Thursday, granting plaintiff Common Cause Indiana’s motion for summary judgment on whether I.C. 33-34-19-13(b) is constitutional. The ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit on Common Cause’s behalf in November 2012.

The election of Marion Superior judges is unique in Indiana, and perhaps the nation, Young noted, as neither the court nor the parties can find any other example of an election system like it.

Under the statute, the Republican and Democratic parties may nominate up to half of the open positions for Marion Superior judge. Once a judge wins in the primary election, he or she will be elected in the general election because there are as many candidates on the ballot as there are open positions.

Because primaries are restricted to the two major parties, only people eligible to vote in primary elections have a chance to cast a meaningful ballot for only half the open judgeships. Furthermore, people ineligible to vote in these elections because they do not declare a party have no say in the election of the judges, Common Cause alleges.

“… [T]he potential for independent and third-party candidates to appear on the ballot does not alleviate the burden imposed by Indiana’s electoral scheme: when a person proceeds to the ballot box on Election Day, he or she must be afforded an opportunity to vote for the judge who will fill Marion Superior Court #1, the judge who will fill Marion Superior Court #2, and so forth,” Young wrote. “Indiana law does not permit this. … The court therefore finds the challenged Statute severely burdens the right to vote.”

“In addition, Defendants’ concerns regarding voter fatigue and voter education are applicable to any election, and cannot be remedied by a statute that attempts to remedy this concern by taking candidate choice away from voters,” Young continued. “In any event, if voter confusion was actually a concern of the Defendants, they could easily clarify the ballot by requiring that each court be elected separately. Maintaining the status quo in Marion County simply is not justified on this basis.”

The ruling is stayed during the 30-day period within which the defendants may file a notice of appeal. If an appeal is filed, the ruling will remain stayed pending a final determination by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case is Common Cause v. Indiana Secretary of State, et al., 1:12-CV-1603.
 

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  1. The voices of the prophets are more on blogs than subway walls these days, Dawn. Here is the voice of one calling out in the wilderness ... against a corrupted judiciary ... that remains corrupt a decade and a half later ... due to, so sadly, the acquiescence of good judges unwilling to shake the forest ... for fear that is not faith .. http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2013/09/prof-alan-dershowitz-on-indiana.html

  2. So I purchased a vehicle cash from the lot on West Washington in Feb 2017. Since then I found it the vehicle had been declared a total loss and had sat in a salvage yard due to fire. My title does not show any of that. I also have had to put thousands of dollars into repairs because it was not a solid vehicle like they stated. I need to find out how to contact the lawyers on this lawsuit.

  3. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  4. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  5. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

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