24 September 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE
NEWS RELEASE # 058
FROM: CLERK OF THE SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA
On the 24th day of September, 2007, the following action was taken by the Supreme Court of Louisiana in the case listed below:
WRIT APPLICATION GRANTED:
2007-C -1888 DAVID DECULUS, CLARA DECULUS, DELLA NEELY AND NANCY SALEMI v. DOUG WELBORN, CLERK OF COURT FOR EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH AND CANDIDATE CLEO FIELDS (Parish of E. Baton Rouge)
Appeals court reverses Fields’ eligibility ruling
State Sen. Cleo Fields cannot seek re-election to office in the Oct. 20 primary election, an appellate court ruled Wednesday, siding with a group of Baton Rouge residents who challenged Fields' candidacy.
In a 7-5 vote, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the ruling of a state district judge and decided Fields was barred from running for another term in his Baton Rouge-based Senate seat because of term limits.
The court case hinges on the determination of when a lawmaker's term begins. Fields took office after a special election in the middle of a term.
Attorney Gray Sexton, representing four people who filed a lawsuit to remove Fields from the election, said the Louisiana Constitution states the term of office for representatives and senators begins on the same day as the governor, which is the second Monday in January every four years. If that standard is applied in this case, Fields is not able to run for re-election, Sexton told the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
"The constitution is unambiguous," Sexton said at a Tuesday hearing before the court.
The term limits law took effect in 1996, limiting lawmakers to three consecutive four-year terms in one chamber. Lawmakers who are elected to fill unexpired terms are considered term-limited if they have served 10 or more years of the 12-year limit.
Fields' lawyer Brace Godfrey said the term of office does not begin until the lawmaker takes an oath on the floor of the House of Representatives or Senate. That standard was adopted by the Legislature in 2006 to eliminate questions over how to measure term limits for lawmakers elected in the middle of a term, such as Fields.
Fields won the seat in a 1997 special election. Although he won the race in December 1997, Fields was not sworn in on the Senate floor until January.
Based on the January date, Fields has served less than 10 years in the Senate and is eligible to run for another term, Godfrey said.
Frank Simoneaux, another attorney challenging Fields' candidacy, told 1st Circuit judges the oath administered on the floor of the House and Senate is "ceremonial" and not even required. Fields was elected on Dec. 13, 1997, the election was declared valid five days later, and Fields was sworn into office by the Secretary of State's Office on Dec. 23, 1997, meaning he will have served 10 years before his term is up, Simoneaux argued.
The lawsuit challenging Fields' candidacy was filed by Della Neely, David Deculus, Carla Deculus and Nancy Salemi.
Includes information from: The Advocate link
Posted by wst... at 15:52