Convicted felon Derrick Shepherd’s case against the Louisiana statute that prevented him from running for the state House last month will get its day before the Louisiana Supreme Court on Dec. 8.
Not that it will do him much good: Shepherd was disqualified and had to watch as Rodney Lyons Sr. defeated incumbent Ebony Woodruff for the District 87 seat that Shepherd used to hold.
Shepherd, who served two years in prison after pleading guilty to public corruption charges in 2008, challenged the 1997 constitutional amendment barring convicted felons who served jail time from running for state and local office for 15 years. But he could not get a final ruling on his challenge in time for last month’s election.
Shepherd contends the provision is not valid because the version approved by voters was not identical to what was approved by the Legislature. A provision carving out an exception for felons given only probation did not make it onto the ballot, and Shepherd said the amendment therefore was invalid, even though the omitted provision did not apply to him.
Judge Wilson Fields of 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge decided in Shepherd’s favor, but a state appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court all but guaranteed the issue would not be settled until after election day.
Shepherd filed a last-ditch request asking Fields to bar the state from disqualifying him, but it went nowhere and he sat out the race for the West Jefferson seat.
Reached for comment, Shepherd’s attorney, Robert Garrity, said he is disappointed the case will be largely academic.
“Derrick was right, and the courts used procedural issues to keep him off the ballot,” Garrity said.
Garrity, also a former legislator, slammed the law as a hypocritical appeal to voters by politicians who have let real issues such as the budget and funding for mental health services and the disabled go unaddressed.
“They don’t have the (guts) to focus on what the real problem is,” he said. “They want to go home and tell lily-white Metairie, ‘I’m tough on crime.’ ”
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.