Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s bid to abolish the Juvenile Court seat held by indicted and suspended Judge Yolanda King came to a screeching halt Thursday when the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal rejected the city’s appeal of a lower court ruling.
In response, mayoral spokeswoman Garnesha Crawford said the city would drop its fight to keep King’s Section E seat off the ballot for the Nov. 4 election.
“With qualifying underway, the city will not appeal this decision to the Supreme Court,” Crawford said in a written statement. “During these tough budget times, we remain steadfast in our commitment to right-size Juvenile Court and invest the savings in much-needed services.”
The city had argued that King’s seat was eliminated because of the passage this year of a state law — championed by Landrieu — to reduce the number of judgeships on the court from six to four.
The cost-saving measure, signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal on June 4, will eliminate Judge Lawrence Lagarde Jr.’s seat when he retires at the end of the year. It doesn’t specify which other section of the court is to be abolished, instead laying out conditions upon which one seat will disappear.
Among those conditions is one that mirrors the wording of a state Supreme Court decision on May 15 that disqualified King from “exercising any judicial function during the pendency of further proceedings against her.” King’s suspension comes with pay.
Landrieu argued that the law effectively eliminated her Section E seat on Aug. 2, a day after the law took effect. The city had fought in court to bar Secretary of State Tom Schedler and Orleans Parish Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell from placing the seat on the ballot.
Qualifying for the seat began Wednesday, with King and prosecutor Niki Roberts signing up for the election.
Appeals Court Judges Randolph Parro, John Michael Guidry, Mitchell Theriot and William Crain denied the city’s appeal, which sought to overturn a decision Friday by Baton Rouge District Judge Wilson Fields rejecting the city’s arguments. Appeals Court Judge J. Michael McDonald dissented.
A spokeswoman for Schedler’s office declined to comment on the ruling. In its most recent court filing, Schedler’s office argued that halting the election at this point “would be detrimental to the state and the election process.”
Morrell has argued that he has no authority over what goes on the ballot.
“We think the decision of the court was correct under the law,” said Madro Bandaries, an attorney for Morrell. “We’re pleased the 1st Circuit agreed with Judge Fields.”
King has pleaded not guilty to a two-count indictment that accuses her of lying when she stated she lived in New Orleans when she qualified last year to serve out the remainder of the term of Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier, who moved to Criminal District Court.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office, which is prosecuting the case, says she lived at the time in a house she owns on Chancer Lane in Slidell.
King’s latest candidacy statement, which she filed Wednesday, lists a different domicile in New Orleans East.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.