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Judge: Suit challenging Marion County judicial slating may proceed

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A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that has given rise to the Democratic and Republican slating system under which Marion Superior judges are elected will go forward.

Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana last week denied a motion to dismiss brought by state officials and interests named in a suit brought by Common Cause and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

Common Cause, a nonpartisan group whose mission is to promote open, honest government and voting rights, seeks an injunction against enforcement of Indiana Code 33-33-49-13. The suit says that law, which sets forth the process for electing judges in the Marion Superior Courts, is “unique in Indiana, and perhaps in the nation.”

“Common Cause has Article III and prudential standing to bring its claim; the Defendants are not immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment; and Common Cause states a plausible claim for relief,” Young wrote in the Sept. 6 order.

No further proceedings had been scheduled as of Friday, and a spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller declined to comment.

Slating of Marion Superior judge races has drawn criticism because each candidate who earned the party’s endorsement on the primary ballot paid identical amounts to the county party before his or her party’s slating convention prior to the primary. For Democrats, the contribution was $13,100; for Republicans, it was $12,000, according to a review of campaign contributions last year by Indiana Lawyer.  

The statute all but guarantees an equal split of Marion Superior judgeships for Democratic and Republican candidates. For the current 20 judgeships, each party may nominate 10 candidates for the general election, and voters may select 10 from each party. Unslated candidates rarely win, and Young noted that while candidates may run as independents or as third-party candidates, no one has since 2002.

Young’s ruling rejected state arguments to remove parties to the case and that the complaint was of a type more appropriately addressed in the Legislature. In rejecting the state’s argument on standing, he wrote, “Instead, Common Cause brings a constitutional challenge involving its members’ and other Marion County voters’ First Amendment right to cast a meaningful vote for Marion Superior Court judge.”

The state’s argument on failure to state a claim also was unpersuasive. “Although Indiana’s ballot access statute … has been found constitutionally adequate … the court is not convinced that the statute’s constitutionality with respect to a candidate’s access to the ballot applies here with equal force, where the claim is not ballot access, but whether a citizen’s vote in the general election matters.”
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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