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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. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

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  5. It would appear that news breaking on Drudge from the Hoosier state (link below) ties back to this Hoosier story from the beginning of the recent police disrespect period .... MCBA president Cassandra Bentley McNair issued the statement on behalf of the association Dec. 1. The association said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. “The MCBA does not believe this was a just outcome to this process, and is disheartened that the system we as lawyers are intended to uphold failed the African-American community in such a way,” the association stated. “This situation is not just about the death of Michael Brown, but the thousands of other African-Americans who are disproportionately targeted and killed by police officers.” http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2016/07/18/hate-cops-sign-prompts-controversy/87242664/

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