BATON ROUGE, La. -- A Baton Rouge judge ruled against Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Monday by allowing the seat of suspended Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King to remain on the ballot for the fall election.
Civil Court Judge Wilson Fields ruled that the protocol for declaring the judge's seat 'vacant' was not followed in King's case.
The Louisiana Supreme Court disqualified King from serving on the bench in May after she was indicted last year on charges that she lied about living in New Orleans when she qualified to run for the bench.
But Fields ruled in favor of Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who argued that the disqualification has not left the seat vacant.
King remains suspended with pay as she fights criminal charges that she falsely listed a New Orleans address on her qualifying papers despite allegedly living in St. Tammany and claiming a homestead exemption there.
At a separate hearing last week, criminal court Judge Michael Kirby denied King's motion to throw out the indictment, ruling that the attorney general's office properly obtained charges of filing a false public record and violating state election law.
But King had better luck in civil court this week, preserving her opportunity to run for re-election, as she has indicated she would do.
Landrieu last week filed the motion to scrap the seat in an attempt to shrink juvenile court from six seats to four. In the city's motion, Landrieu invoked the newly passed state law that allows for the elimination of two judgeships once they become vacant by 'death, resignation, retirement (or) disqualification from exercising any judicial function pursuant to order of the Louisiana Supreme Court.'
But Fields ruled that the new law doesn't match the existing procedure for removing a judge's seat from the ballot, which involved the Louisiana Supreme Court notifying the governor that a seat has been 'vacated.'
Madro Banderies, attorney for New Orleans Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell, contested Landrieu's motion long with Schedler.
'The judge found that Judge King's seat had not been vacated under the law,' Banderies said. 'We believe that's the correct ruling.'
Fields also allowed King herself and a group of four activist-voters to intervene in the civil case, both offering arguments based on the Constitutional preservation of voting rights.
'Too many have died to attain and preserve voting rights for this matter not to be taken seriously,' argued the motion filed by the voters. 'If one public official is allowed to determine whether Judge King serves the people who elected her, there will be no end to the erosion of the 15th Amendment.'
Pat Bryant, spokesman for the Justice and Beyond coalition that is backing the voters, applauded Fields' ruling.
'I'd like to say that justice was served. We're very happy that Judge King, or anyone else who is qualified, can run for that seat,' Bryant said.
With qualifying for the fall election scheduled to begin Wednesday, the Landrieu administration indicated it was filing for emergency writs to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to contest the ruling.