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Judges don't agree candidate is 'qualified'

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Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed as to whether an elected at-large school board candidate was "qualified" under the Indiana Constitution to take office because his election caused three members from the same school district to be on the board. The majority ruled in favor of the candidate and another winner, ruling the portion of the statute that says the person who wins the greatest number of votes wins the position controls despite conflicting subsections.

In Clarke C. Campbell v. Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis and Marion County Election Board, et al., No. 49A02-0808-CV-681, Clarke Campbell appealed the trial court ruling that the individuals who received the highest number of votes for the two at-large seats on the Indianapolis Public Schools Board should be seated despite statute saying no more than two board members may reside in the same district. Winners Michael Cohen and Elizabeth Gore caused three members to be seated from the same district.

The Board of School Commissioners for IPS originally filed the complaint following the May 2008 election seeking an interpretation of Indiana Code Section 20-25-3-4. Gore ran for Campbell's incumbent at-large seat and won. Cohen won the "open" at-large election; the vacancy was the result of a resignation from another at-large board member before his term was up.

At the time Cohen and Gore ran, they were qualified to run and both lived in IPS District 3; there was already a board member representing District 3. This violated subsection (b) of the statute that states no more than two members who serve on the board may reside in the same board district. The statute also says in subsection (e) that a candidate who runs for an at-large position wins if he or she gets the greatest number of votes of all the candidates for the position.

The election brings up a situation in which it is impossible to adhere to both subsections, wrote Judge Paul Mathias, and the statute provides no guidance for the "rare, but potentially recurring circumstance in this case where a mid-term resignation by an at-large Board member caused both at-large seats to be vacant in the same election cycle."

The majority agreed with the trial court that subsection C(e) should control, which is later in position in the statute. It noted its conclusion is consistent with the governing rule in Indiana to uphold the will of the electorate.

The majority and Judge L. Mark Bailey disagreed as to whether Gore and Cohen were elected and qualified under Article 15, Section 3 of the Indiana Constitution. The majority concluded that "qualified" referred to actions the elected successor must take after the election to qualify for office, such as taking an oath of office. Judge Bailey believed Cohen wasn't qualified to hold an at-large position because when Gore defeated Campbell, Cohen was statutorily disqualified to hold office because he was the third person residing in the district elected to the school board. He also remained disqualified at the time he took office. In accordance with subsection (h) of the statute, Judge Bailey wrote Leroy Robinson, who held the office before Cohen was elected, should retain the position until another person is elected and qualified. The judge noted that because the "open" at-large position caused the current problem, his solution only affects that position.

The majority also urged the General Assembly to consider the circumstances of the appeal and formulate a statutory remedy should similar circumstances appear in a future election.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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