Judge dismisses election lawsuit

Published 9:06 am Friday, October 31, 2014

District Judge William J. Knight dismissed on Thursday the lawsuit filed by Bogalusa City Council candidate Emma Dixon among others against the City of Bogalusa, Washington Parish Registrar of Voters Randy Strickland and Secretary of State Tom Schedler on the single issue of pre-emption, which means federal law takes precedence over state law.

Accordingly, the intervention filed by mayoral candidate Tina Ratliff Boley last week was also dismissed.

The venue for the case was switched to the municipal building in Franklinton at the last minute because courtrooms in the Washington Parish Courthouse were full.

Dixon sought a temporary injunction to prevent voting in the Nov. 4 Bogalusa City Council race for Districts B and C. The suit also sought to annul purported redistricting of the Bogalusa City Council District B and C, for declaratory judgment and for injunctive relief.

Other plaintiffs in the case with Dixon included Washington Parish NAACP President Elbert Buckley, Fate Farrell, Bogalusa Voters’ League President Martin Austin Sr. and fellow City Council candidate Justin Arnold. Both Dixon and Arnold qualified to run in District B, but were later notified they were residents of District C.

Knight said there were two major issues before the court:

• Do the parties currently before the Court have standing on a legal right and/or interest to assert a claim regarding the upcoming election of Bogalusa City Council District B and C?

• Is there a justiciable controversy before the Court such that the Court may render a decision on issues that are ripe for determination?

Knight also noted time delays in filing the lawsuit. He said the plaintiffs had seven days from the conclusion of qualifying to file an objection. Thus, the time to file an objection was on or before Aug. 29.

“We have multiple candidates in District B and C races,” Knight said. “We do not know who will be elected from either of those districts until Nov. 4. The Court acknowledges that the plaintiffs find themselves in a unique position through no fault of their own.

“The agencies which caused this mess are somewhat offensive,” Knight said. “This case leaves everyone somewhat dissatisfied. The claim should have been filed within seven days.”

Dixon said she thought Knight did his job.

“I think the judge was extremely fair when he said the agencies were offensive when they definitely showed chutzpah in causing injury to the plaintiffs,” Dixon said afterward. “We will be seeking relief after the Nov. 4 election.”

Ratliff Boley said she was more than pleased with the ruling.

“I’m happy with the decision regarding the dismissal of the portion of the suit that would have nullified the redistricting that was done in 2012,” Ratliff Boley said. “For some reason Emma Dixon and Justin Arnold and the rest of the plaintiffs are of the understanding that I am against their position. I agree the election in itself may in fact injure them without reason. Redistricting, not the election, was the portion of the suit I had a dispute with.”

Schedler’s representatives in the courtroom were Casey T. Jones and Merietta Norton. Strickland was represented by Bill Bryan from the Attorney General’s office.