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Justices won't intervene in secretary of state eligibility case

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Ruling on an emergency transfer request, the Indiana Supreme Court today accepted Secretary of State Charlie White’s appeal against the state’s Democratic Party and ruled it won’t put a halt to the case while a recount investigation and criminal voter fraud proceedings are ongoing.

With that, the justices are allowing for the Indiana Recount Commission to rule on whether White – elected as the state’s chief election officer in November – was eligible for office because he registered using a false home address during his campaign.

Both White and the commission had appealed Marion Circuit Judge Lou Rosenberg’s decision in the past month ordering commission members to hear a challenge from Democrats, who allege White was illegally registered to vote at the time he declared his candidacy and therefore ineligible to run. The commission has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for the election contest June 21 and self-imposed a June 30 deadline for deciding on the matter.

That eligibility is related but separate from the criminal case in Hamilton County involving White. He faces a trial in August on felony voter fraud charges. The newly elected state official remains in office while these two matters are pending. He asked the Supreme Court to stay the recount matter until the criminal case is resolved on grounds that the voter fraud question is what is at issue in both civil and criminal proceedings. White argued that putting the recount matter first could jeopardize the felony case if he decides to defend himself.

The two-page order came today in Charlie White, et al. v. Indiana Democratic Party, No. 49S02-1105-MI-291. Noting that it only accepts jurisdiction on Appellate Rule 56(A) cases in extraordinary matters involving emergency and substantial questions of law of great public importance, the justices granted the request in this case. The court denied White’s request to stay the matter.

While dismissing the appeal to allow the recount commission process to play out, the court noted it would keep jurisdiction of the matter in case a further appeal surfaces. But it cautioned the parties that it likely would be “disinclined” to accept a discretionary interlocutory appeal in the name of a speedy resolution to this matter.

This case has significant implications for the state, as it could determine whether the Republican-elected White is allowed to stay in office. State officials are not able to hold elected office if they are convicted of a felony, but the recount commission could also remove White if it determines he wasn’t legally registered and able to be included on the ballot in the first place. The Indiana attorney general has argued that state statute says someone must be “registered,” not that he or she must be “legally registered.”

During the 2011 legislative session, the Republican-controlled General Assembly attempted to amend state law allowing for the governor to appoint the secretary of state’s replacement if the officeholder is removed. Currently, the law says the second-highest vote getter in the November election would take the position – in this case that would be Democrat Vop Osili. Control of the secretary of state’s office determines a party’s placement on the ballot and appointment of election board officials, and a change would have ripple effects for the Republicans who now have control.

The Legislature ultimately declined to act on what had been dubbed “the Charlie White Rule,” with attorney and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, joining others who said they weren’t comfortable intervening in an active lawsuit.

After today’s transfer decision by the court, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said in a written statement that he’s happy with the ruling and he hopes the commission will continue to move forward with the complaint.

“Republicans threw out every roadblock they could to delay or discard this case,” he said in the statement, “but the central question has never been answered.”

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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