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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ind. Decisions - Two from 7th Circuit, including voter ID

In Crawford, William v. Rokita, Todd (SD Ind., Judge Barker), a 2-1, 15-page opinion, the 7th Circuit upholds Indiana's voter ID law. Judge Posner writes:

Perhaps the Indiana law can be improved—what can’t be?—but the details for regulating elections must be left to the states, pursuant to Article I, section 4, of the Constitution, which provides that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.” “To deem ordinary and widespread burdens like these severe would subject virtually every electoral regulation to strict scrutiny, hamper the ability of States to run efficient and equitable elections, and compel federal courts to rewrite state electoral codes. The Constitution does not require that result, for it is beyond question ‘that States may, and inevitably must, enact reasonable regulations of parties, elections, and ballots to reduce election- and campaign-related disorder.’ ” [citations omitted]

Judge Sykes concurs.
Judge Evans' dissent begins: Let’s not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-toothinly- veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic. We should subject this law to strict scrutiny—or at least, in the wake of Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428 (1992), something akin to “strict scrutiny light”—and strike it down as an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.

In K., Farzana v. IN Dept Educ Munster (ND Ind., Judge Lozano), an 8-page opinion, Chief Judge Easterbrook concludes:
Rule 5(e) will serve its function best if “proper form” covers all matters regulated by the rules of procedure. Clerks thus must take in whatever is tendered to them; a document may be rejected later if a judicial officer finds a problem, but the initial filing ensures that the process of vetting papers for compliance with the rules does not prevent satisfaction of time limits. An e-filing system likewise must accept every document tendered for filing; it cannot reject any paper that the clerk must accept.

Long before Rule 5(e) was amended to limit the clerk’s power to reject documents tendered for filing, the Supreme Court held that a complaint (actually) filed in the wrong court generally satisfies a federal statute of limitations, provided that suit is re-filed in the right court promptly after the misadventure in the wrong forum ends. See Burnett v. New York Central R.R., 380 U.S. 424 (1965); Herb v. Pitcairn, 325 U.S. 99 (1945). These decisions are not directly applicable; recall that we have been proceeding on the assumption that state rather than federal law supplies the period of limitations. Still, it would be odd if Rule 5(e), a part of federal law that governs how to file even when the time to file comes from state law, were deemed less favorable to plaintiffs than Burnett and Herb.

Counsel tendered a complaint for filing on July 6; it should have been accepted even though its deficiencies required amendment to show that a new suit was being initiated. Because the complaint was timely, and verification is unnecessary, the district court’s judgment is vacated and the case remanded for decision on the merits.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 4, 2007 01:35 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions