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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ind. Courts - Supreme Court rules in Lake County early voting dispute [Updated]

A story in the Chicago Tribune today contains this quote:

The Indiana Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming days on which judge has jurisdiction over the case.
Well, the Supreme Court acted last evening, at 8:20 PM, issuing an Order in the case of Curley v. Lake Superior Court. Access it here.

In the order the Court writes:

Indiana Trial Procedure Rule 42(D) was designed to resolve conflicts that arise "[wlhen civil actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending in different
courts." * * *

Of course, this is not the ordinary course but the principles of this rule - basically, first in time - dictate what we believe to be the most orderly approach. Therefore, we order that the Circuit Court Case be, and hereby is, consolidated with the Superior Court Case in Superior Court and both matters shall proceed before the Superior Court on a consolidated basis. The October 14 preliminary injunction entered by the Circuit Court shall remain in effect pending action, if any, by the Superior Court. This Court expresses no opinion on the merits of any of the issues raised by the parties, including such matters as the validity of the October 14 preliminary injunction, the jurisdiction of the Superior Court over appeals of decisions of thc Board, the applicability of the unanimity requirement of 1C 3-11-10-26.3, and various constitutional issues.

We note that the parties retain their rights under Trial Rule 76 to a change of judge. Given the need for pronlpt resolution of the issues presented in this case, the following special procedures shall be followed: * * *

The Order (7 pages in all) is signed by Chief Justice Shepard, Dickson and Sullivan, JJ., concur. Boehm, J., concurs in result., Rucker, J., dissents. Some quotes from Justice Rucker's dissent:
I dissent. With the order entered today the majority does something quite unusual and rather remarkable. Specifically it grants relief the parties themselves do not request and does not at all niention the only issue that is properly before us. * * *

It is important to note that Relators have not asked this court for an order consolidating these two cases. More precisely, no petition for writ of mandamus or prohibition has been requested on these grounds. As things now stand the trial court that the majority says should hear this matter, is the same trial court that previously entered a temporary restraining order, which was later vacated by a Federal District Court, prohibiting the Lake County Board of Elections fiom establishing satellite voting offices. By entering its order sua sponte, the majority has foreclosed the opportunity of proper briefing on whether Realtors are even entitled to consolidation and if so which court should assume jurisdiction. I am not at all certain that Judge Arredondo has a "clear, absolute, and imperative duty imposed by law" City of South Bend, supra, to grant a Trial Rule 42(D) motion to consolidate. The issue has not been presented to this Court.

I would simply deny the issuance of the writ thus allowing to stand Judge Arredondo's restraining order permitting the existence of satellite voting offices. Any issues concerning consolidation may then be presented to the appropriate court or courts for resolution.

[More] The AP has a story on the Order this morning. Some quotes:
GARY, Ind. -- The Indiana Supreme Court stepped into a court fight over satellite voting sites in Lake County on Tuesday night, saying the dispute should be settled in the county's Superior Court.

The high court also ruled that an injunction opening early voting centers in largely Democratic Gary, Hammond and East Chicago would remain in effect, pending further action by the Superior Court. * * *

The state Supreme Court was asked to intervene after the conflict arose between the two local courts. The high court ordered the cases consolidated in Lake Superior Court, where the first case was filed.

The 4-1 ruling capped a dizzying day in the county that is considered key to Democrat Barack Obama's chances of winning Indiana's electoral votes over Republican John McCain. Republican members of Lake County's election board had opposed the satellite centers, saying they would increase the chance of voting fraud.

Arredondo sided with Democrats and two unions on Tuesday in ordering the early voting sites opened in the three urban centers. Early voting is already available in the county seat of Crown Point, more than 10 miles away.

Hawkins, appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, later issued an order saying that Arredondo's ruling was premature because the case had been taken to the state Supreme Court. The high court ruling was handed down just a few hours later in Indianapolis.

[Still more] Here are today's stories from the NWI Times, and the Gary Post-Tribune - both papers have long recaps of yesterday's events. From the Times story:
Republicans said they would file a new lawsuit before the Indiana Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the satellite early voting.

The Indiana Supreme Court stepped into the court fight Tuesday night, saying the dispute should be settled in the county's Superior Court.

The high court also ruled that an injunction opening the early voting centers in largely Democratic Gary, Hammond and East Chicago would remain in effect pending further action by the Superior Court.

From the P-T:
Indiana's Supreme Court stepped into fight Tuesday night, saying the dispute should be settled in the county's Superior Court. The high court also ruled that the injunction opening the early voting centers would remain in effect pending further action by the Superior Court.
[Updated 11:25 AM] The Court has corrected the Order and I have replaced the version originally linked with the corrected version. What were the corrections? On p. 4, in the first full paragraph, the phrase "(3) if special judges are chosen" is replaced with "(3) if no special judge is chosen". Also, I'm told "a typo omitting "NO or NOT" has been corrected on page 4."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 15, 2008 06:33 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions