A new state law may dictate the outcome of a contested race in Starke County’s general election this November.
House Enrolled Act 1110 is being applied to candidates seeking a position as Judge of a Town Court. Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the legislation into law in May of this year.
Language in the bill, however, may still need to receive some interpretation. Section 16 and 17 of the text says that “a person selected as judge of a city court or town court must be an attorney in good standing… admitted to the practice of law in Indiana.”
Neither of the City of Knox’s candidates, Republican Charles Hasnerl and Democrat Angelo Masuka, have been described as an attorney. Both ran uncontested in their party primary in May, but are scheduled to square off in November’s election.
Hasnerl says the law may limit those with the qualifications.
“Even those that do meet the qualifications aren’t necessarily going to be eager to take that position based on the pay and the schedule and everything that’s involved,” says Hasnerl. “So it’s really been a good situation for these cities and towns to have non-attorney judges fill the role.”
Those two sections of the law are will to go into effect on June 29th and July 1st of this year. House Enrolled Act 1110, however, goes on to say that “a person described…may complete the term to which the person was elected before July 1, 2015; and … after that, continue to serve consecutive elected terms.”
Exactly how that language will impact the ballot come November remains to be seen.
Starke County Clerk Vicki Cooley says she is unable to comment on the issue for now. A meeting she’s attending in Indianapolis the week of June 29th hopes to clarify this very issue.
Speaking of his opponent, Hasnerl says the state may have to live with the legislature’s decision.
“He’s got to discuss things with his party, he needs to discuss things with the state election board and decide how he wants to move forward,” says Hasnerl.
Officials with the Starke County Democratic Party did not return calls requesting comment.
Should it be found that non-attorneys are unable to run for the position, the Starke County Democrats may still have time to find a candidate. A deadline of July 6th exists for candidates filing to run in November’s General Election.