03 March 2010

state supremes reverse third circuit in touchet v broussard convicted felon to run for public office case

FRANCIS TOUCHET, JR. v. ERNAL J. BROUSSARD (Parish of Vermilion)Touchet v Broussard 10C0380


The Louisiana Constitution disqualifies from candidacy for public office those persons who have been convicted within this state of a felony, or convicted under the laws of the United States of a felony which would also constitute a felony under Louisiana law, unless that person has been pardoned by the governor or by the official having the authority to pardon in the place where the person was convicted and sentenced. La. Const. art. 1 , § 10(B)(1).

Absent a pardon, 15 years must elapse before a felon can seek public office. In this case, Broussard pled guilty to aiding and abetting an illegal gambling business in violation of 18 U.S.C.§§ 1955 (a) and 2. The Bill of Information, Plea Agreement, and Stipulated Factual Basis all confirm that this crime constituted a felony under La. R.S. 14:90.

The fact La. R.S. 14:90 does not specifically address aiders and abetters is immaterial, as all persons who aid and abet in the commission of a crime are considered principals under Louisiana law. La. R.S. 14:24.

Further, the possibility Broussard obtained an automatic first offender pardon by virtue of La. Const. art. IV , § 5 does not allow him to run for office prior to the expiration of 15 years from the completion of his sentence, as La. Const. art. I, § 10(B)(1) specifically requires that the pardon be granted by the governor or the official having the authority to grant the pardon, such as the President.

An automatic first offender pardon is different than a full gubernatorial or presidential pardon in that it does not restore the status of innocence and does not preclude consideration of a first felony conviction in prohibiting a person from running for public office until the expiration of fifteen years from the completion of his sentence.

For the reasons stated herein, the judgment of the court of appeal is reversed and the judgment of the trial court declaring that Ernal Broussard is disqualified as a candidate for the office of councilman of District B, City of Abbeville is reinstated.