Thursday, November 13, 2008

Court Of Appeals Rules Terre Haute Mayor Ineligible To Serve

More than a year after former Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke challenged Duke Bennett's upset win in the city's mayoral election, a divided Court of Appeals ruled that Bennett's job with the nonprofit Hamilton Center made him ineligible to be a candidate for Terre Haute mayor under the federal Hatch Act. The Court of Appeals 2-1 decision (posted at the Indiana Law Blog) invalidated Bennett's election, declared a vacancy and ordered a special election to be conducted to take his place. I would anticipate an appeal of the ruling by Bennett to the Indiana Supreme Court, although an online report by the Terre Haute Tribune-Star does not indicate whether that decision has been made. It seems to me that Judge Najam has the better argument of how the law should apply in this case. He contends that the losing candidate, Burke, had no right to seek Bennett's removal based upon long-standing common law applied by our Supreme Court where there is no evidence the voters who supported the winning candidate had any knowledge of the winning candidate's ineligibility to hold office. The election, Najam notes, could be declared void, but only an action of the State could result in the removal of the elected official from office. Here, the Court of Appeals took it upon itself to remove Bennett from office and order a special election. If this ruling stands with respect to the Court's interpretation of the Hatch Act, then there are several Indianapolis city-county councilors who should be similarly booted from their public office on the same ground.

10 comments:

Paul K. Ogden said...

I haven't read the decision, but I highly doubt that the decision will be upheld by the Supreme Court.

Jon E. Easter said...

This sounds like a four-alarm mess.

straight up said...

Which Indy councilors should get booted?

Sir Hailstone said...

Gary you have it backwards. Burke is the former mayor, Bennett was the upset winner and apparently now former (pending appeals) Mayor.

Advance Indiana said...

Thanks for the correction, Michael. It's now corrected.

Mark W. Rutherford said...

In my opinion, Najam's dissent is very compelling.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Overturning an election is an extraoardinary thing for a court to day. The time to knock the person off the ballot is before the voters have spoken, not after.

Advance Indiana said...

Do you think Ed DeLaney would agree that our presidential election should be declared void, Obama ruled ineligible to serve and a special election ordered because Obama is not a natural born citizen?

straight up said...

Once again, which City County councilors should get 'booted'?

Advance Indiana said...

Do your own research, straight up. The issue has been discussed at length on this blog in the past.