Juvenile Court Judge Darlene Wanda Mears on Tuesday became the second
Superior Court judge in Lake County to be ousted from the bench since the
public began voting on retentions in 1973.
The first was Andrew Giorgi, a criminal court justice, who was voted off the
bench in 1977.
Despite fund-raisers, public appearances and campaign signs posted
throughout the county, Mears did not rally enough support to retain her
Mears could not be reached for comment.
Mears was the target of media attention last week when the Lake County
Democratic Central Commitee publicly opposed her retention and that of Superior
Court Judges James Danikolas and Morton B. Kanz.
Nevertheless, voters chose to retain Danikolas and Kanz.
There were 57,262 votes for Mears' retention and 61,551 against. Danikolas'
vote was 64,359 for and 45,026 against, and Kanz received 66,326 for and 42,730
Danikolas said Tuesday he was happy about his retention. He worked at the
downtown Gary court since 1977.
"I'm very pleased and relieved," he said.
Kanz could not be reached for comment.
The central committee dropped its campaign against Danikolas and Kanz, who
filed a lawsuit against the commitee claiming its action violated state law
prohibiting political organizations from getting involved in judicial retention
contests. The suit was resolved by an agreement as soon as it was filed last
Danikolas said he was "shocked" when he heard about the initial opposition
from the central committee.
"I never expected it," he said. "I was pleased that an agreement was
Democratic Party Chairman Robert Pastrick said the opposition by the central
committee was an effort to alert lawmakers that the county wants a system in
which judges are elected by popular vote, not appointed by the governor and
retained on a ballot every six years.
The committee continued its campaign against Mears until it was halted by
Superior Court Judge James Richard who said the action violated state law.
Danikolas said Mears' ousting was a "big surprise."
He attributes the action to a combination of allegations about Mears' use of
employees' time and the opposition from the Democratic Central Commitee.
Mears has allegedly been using public employees and equipment for her
private use. Reports on the allegations prompted an investigation by Indiana
The investigation uncovered evidence that was given to the Lake County grand
jury, but it has yet to rule on the matter.