On Friday, the recent political and legal woes of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) continued when Louisiana State Representative Paul Hollis, a Republican, filed a lawsuit in state court objecting to her candidacy in the November election for a U.S. Senate seat on the grounds that she is not an inhabitant of the state.
Hollis was a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Landrieu until he dropped out in July and endorsed her leading Republican rival, Representative Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
The lawsuit was filed in the 19th Judicial District, located in Baton Rouge, prior to the end of the seven-day window subsequent to candidate qualification provided for in the Louisiana Election Code. Consequently, the district court is required by law to adjudicate the lawsuit.
Though one possible judicial outcome could be outright dismissal of the claim by the presiding judge in the 19th Judicial District in whose court the case was filed, State Representative Hollis could appeal a dismissal or an unfavorable ruling to the the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Appeals Court ruled unfavorably, he could appeal one step further to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
According to the lawsuit, Landrieu is not an inhabitant of Louisiana, but instead of Washington D.C., where she lives in “her 2.5 million dollar residence on Capitol Hill.”
The issue of Landrieu’s residency status was first raised by one of her Republican challengers, Colonel Rob Maness, on Friday, August 22. The story gained momentum last week when the Washington Post published an investigative report on Landrieu’s questionable residency claims.
Both Colonel Maness and Representative Cassidy have subsequently issued several criticisms of Landrieu for not living in Louisiana.
On Friday, Maness filed complaints with four parish District Attorneys in Louisiana, requesting that they file an action against Landrieu’s candidacy on the grounds that she is not a resident of the state. It does not appear that any of these District Attorneys filed the requested legal action in state court prior to the 4:30 pm deadline outlined in the Louisiana Election Code.
The black letter law is quite clear that, as Section 493 of the Louisiana Election Code states, “[a]n action objecting to candidacy shall be commenced in a court of competent jurisdiction within seven days after the close of qualifications for candidates in the primary election legal action must commence.”
That seven-day period ended at 4:30 pm on Friday.
On Friday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that “Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro confirmed late Friday (Aug. 29) afternoon that his office received a complaint, but told… The Times-Picayune that he doesn’t have jurisdiction in the case. Since Landrieu registered as a candidate in Baton Rouge, Cannizzaro said any objection would have to come from East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore.”
According to the Times-Picayune, “Moore, however, said nothing from Maness or his campaign was delivered to his office.”
“I haven’t received a letter. I don’t even know who Rob Maness is,” Moore told the Times-Picayune.
Due to one quirk in the law, Moore may be allowed to file an action, provided he submits it to the court prior to noon this coming Tuesday.
According to the Times-Picayune, “[t]he Baton Rouge district attorney’s office closed at 2 p.m. Friday after Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden earlier announced city-parish government would shut down early heading into the Labor Day weekend.”
Section 493 of the Louisiana Election Code also states that the deadline to commence court actions may be extended “if the time interval ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or other legal holiday, then noon of the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday shall be deemed to be the end of the time interval. After the expiration of the time period set forth in this Section, no action shall be commenced objecting to candidacy…”
Though the Maness campaign has expressed confidence that their filing of complaints on Friday with the four District Attorneys complies with the seven-day filing window set forth in the law, no legal authority outside the campaign appears to agree with that interpretation.
News that a supporter of Representative Cassidy has filed a lawsuit in state court within the seven-day window, however, means that regardless of District Attorney Moore’s decision to proceed with a court action based on Colonel Maness’s complaint, the question of Senator Landrieu’s residency will remain both a legal and political problem her campaign must deal with for the foreseeable future.