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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

judicial seat.

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

against.

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

Thursday.

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

worked out."

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

State Police.

The investigation uncovered evidence that was given to the Lake County grand

jury, but it has yet to rule on the matter.

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