A Highland attorney is back on the ballot for a Lake Circuit judge opening after he received a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that say the Indiana Election Commission shouldn’t have removed his name as a candidate for the general election.
Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele on Sept. 13 and 23 granted both the restraining order and preliminary injunction putting judicial prospect William I. Fine back on the Nov. 2 ballot. Fine is the Republican candidate for the seat being vacated at year’s end once Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo retires. Merrillville Town Judge George Paras won the Democratic primary in May. No Republican was on the primary ballot, so county party chair Kim Krull in June named Fine to fill that vacancy.
But some questioned his candidacy based on the party chair’s ability to name a candidate herself rather than conducting a caucus as the party rules stipulate. On Sept. 2, the four-member Indiana Election Commission couldn’t reach a decision and deadlocked with a 2-2 vote, meaning Fine was removed from the ballot unless a court action said otherwise.
At that hearing, Fine’s counsel wanted the commission to deny the challenge outright because they didn’t believe the state board had jurisdiction to decide the matter because it was a party-rule issue. An attorney for Michael Lambert – one of several people who are challenging how Fine was chosen – questioned the Republican Party rules and state statute allowing that to happen without a party caucus.
Represented by Indianapolis attorney David Brooks, Fine appealed in Marion County where the state commission is based. Judge Keele granted the order because absentee ballots needed to go out in mid-September and this litigation could put Fine in danger of not being included on the ballot.
Specifically, Judge Keele noted in his TRO ruling that no basis in law exists to interpret state party rules in a way to override a statute and that the election commission doesn’t have the subject matter jurisdiction to endorse state party rules, let alone at the expense of a statutory grant of power to a county chair.
At the Sept. 23 hearing, Fine said that Judge Keele granted the preliminary injunction and planned to issue a written ruling once the parties submitted their proposed findings.
Lambert – a Winfield Town Council at-large member who wanted a party caucus to give others a chance to be on the ballot – filed a notice of appeal Sept. 17 and that remained pending as of IL deadline. That appellate case is Lambert v. Fine, No. 49A04-1009-PL-00556.