BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana court officials who face new age restrictions that could oust them from office will be allowed to sign up for re-election bids this week.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
District Judge Tim Kelley granted the request from the Louisiana Justice of the Peace and Constables Association, which says in a lawsuit the restriction amounts to unconstitutional age discrimination.
A law establishing the mandatory retirement age of 70 for the court officials has been on the books since 2006, but it exempted anyone elected before Aug. 15 of that year. Legislation this year removed that exemption, a change that was slated to affect about 160 elected officials.
Kelley's order allows anyone who was previously exempted to sign up for re-election during the Wednesday through Friday qualifying period for the Nov. 4 ballot. The judge also set an Aug. 29 hearing in the lawsuit to determine whether to continue a prohibition against enforcing the age restriction.
The mandatory retirement provision, sponsored by state Sen. Elbert Guillory, breezed to easy passage with Louisiana lawmakers and was signed into law in June with little attention, but it's unclear who was behind it.
Guillory, a Republican from Opelousas, said he sponsored the measure for a constituent who said the justices of the peace and constables association wanted it. Guillory said the man raised concerns that the local officials are allowed to carry weapons under state law, while "in wheelchairs, some on oxygen tanks."
But the association denies any involvement in the bill and now is challenging it in court.
Connie Moore, a St. Tammany Parish justice of the peace and president of the association, said her organization did not file the lawsuit just to prove it wasn't involved in the legislation.
"I'm assuming that people will see that we filed it, and I guess the ones that were skeptical might change their minds, but that's not why we filed it," she said Tuesday. "We filed it just to help out the JPs and the constables who were affected by it. Plus, we felt the timing was kind of poor, so close to the election."
Before the restraining order was issued, some of the court officials affected by the law had said they intended to run for new six-year terms anyway, even though they are too old to meet the law's requirements.
Since the age restriction has ballooned into a controversy, Guillory said he'll introduce a bill next year to undo the mandatory retirement provision.
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Posted on Wed, August 20, 2014
by MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press