A court hearing to determine whether Charlie White is eligible to serve as Indiana secretary of state continued without him when he decided not to attend Wednesday.
The Republican skipped the morning court hearing during which a Marion County judge heard arguments on the challenge by state Democrats of a June decision in White's favor by the Indiana Recount Commission. Democrats argue that White wasn't legally registered to vote when he declared his candidacy last year, making him ineligible to run or serve.
A court employee said Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg told her that White had not been ordered to attend, but declined to say whether he was surprised when White didn't show up.
When White still hadn't arrived 20 minutes after the 9 a.m. hearing was set to begin, Rosenberg asked if anyone else knew where White was. Deputy Attorney General Betsy Isenberg, representing the state Recount Commission, said White had phoned her about two weeks ago to ask whether he was required to attend and she had advised him to contact the court.
White had been expected to represent himself after his attorney, Republican powerhouse lawyer Jim Bopp, resigned in August.
Democratic attorneys were heavily critical of White for not attending when he was acting as his own lawyer.
"As an attorney, I would not have the courage or the chutzpah not to show up for a hearing if I was representing a client," Bill Groth said.
"I found it very interesting that Charlie White wasn't here," said Groth's co-counsel, Karen Celestino-Horseman. "It kind of puts me in mind of my nephews when they were little standing behind mom's leg, I can throw the rock out and know I'm safe rather than coming in here and confronting it all where he would have had to address it without having legal counsel by his side."
A spokesman for the secretary of state's office said White never intended to attend Wednesday's hearing.
"There was no reason for him to be there. He wasn't subpoenaed or anything," said A.J. Feeney-Ruiz. He noted that White had filed a brief in his own defense, and said the "sole purpose" of Wednesday's hearing was to defend the recount commission's decision.
But White told WISH-TV that he had planned on attending the hearing but mistakenly thought it was scheduled for 1 p.m. White didn't return phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Democrats argue White improperly used his ex-wife's address in Fishers to vote in the 2010 Republican primary when he also had a condo with his then-fiancee.