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Judicial candidates lose elections

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

Two judicial candidates who’d faced Indiana Election Commission challenges earlier this year about their names even appearing on the ballot made it to the general election, but ended up losing the races and not getting to the bench in Lake and Allen counties.

In Allen County, incumbent Superior Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger lost the election for the seat he’s held for 19 years. He was defeated by attorney Wendy Davis. Opponents had tried to get the judge removed from the ballot in September on the grounds that he’d previously been disciplined by the Indiana Supreme Court, but the Indiana Election Commission refused to remove him based on language of state statute – finding that it only applied to attorney judicial prospects, not incumbent judges.

Meanwhile in Lake County, Highland attorney William I. Fine lost his bid for the Circuit bench to succeed retiring Judge Lorenzo Arredondo. The Republican candidate lost to Democratic challenger George C. Paras, who had been the only person on the ballot following the primary election in May. No Republicans ran in the primary and Paras was the sole name on the ballot until the county’s Republican Party chair appointed Fine as the candidate. But a Lake County town official challenged that appointment, saying the chair should have held a caucus and chosen someone that way party rules dictate.

The state election commission split on whether that was permissible, and as a result Fine was removed from the ballot. But Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele overturned that commission decision and put him back on the ballot in September. The Indiana Supreme Court refused to take the case before the Court of Appeals had a chance to rule on it, and the lower appellate court declined to speed up its review of the case before the election.

Though the election is now over and Fine’s candidacy is effectively moot, Crown Point attorney Michael Back who represents the challenger Michael Lambert said it may continue because the issue is broader than Fine’s election loss and goes to whether the party chair is allowed to appoint a judicial candidate rather than holding a caucus.

Rehearing "Candidacy issues in Allen, Lake counties" IL Sept. 15-28, 2010

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