Derrick Shepherd mounts another legal challenge to try to stay on ballot _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd signs papers next to chief deputy Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Frank Borne, left, as Jon A. Gegenheimer. clerk of court, top right, watches as Shepherd takes part in the qualifying process for Louisiana house district 87 at the Jefferson Parish Government Building in Gretna, La. Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Shepherd plead guilty to money laundering and believes he can still qualify for the legislature.

Convicted felon Derrick Shepherd is asking a Baton Rouge judge to stop the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office from disqualifying him from running for the District 87 seat in the state House of Representatives. The seat represents much of the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

Shepherd contends that even though his disqualification in Jefferson Parish court last month was upheld by the state 5th Circuit Court of Appeal and again when the Louisiana Supreme Court refused to take it up, the Baton Rouge court has jurisdiction on the matter, and that court has ruled the constitutional provision barring convicted felons from running for state and local office for 15 years after their sentence ends is invalid.

Judge Wilson Fields, of 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, sided with Shepherd last month, ruling that the wording of the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1997 didn’t match what was passed by the Legislature and the amendment therefore was invalid.

Fields will hear Shepherd’s request for an injunction against the secretary of state Thursday morning.

Shepherd’s attorney, Robert Garrity, said Shepherd’s name already is on the ballots for the Oct. 24 primary because they were printed before his disqualification in the Jefferson Parish case became final.

As it stands now, Garrity said, voters will be notified at the polling stations that votes for Shepherd won’t count. He is seeking an injunction to prevent that.

Garrity said he will argue that because the Jefferson Parish case disqualified Shepherd on what he called a procedural issue, the Baton Rouge decision on the constitutional issue should take precedence.

Until the state Supreme Court takes up the constitutional issue raised in the Baton Rouge case, which is expected to be in December, Fields’ decision is the law and Shepherd should be able to run for the West Jefferson seat, Garrity argued.

“We can show the district court that we can win the suit on the merits,” he said.

The request for the injunction may be the last gasp for Shepherd, whose battle to stay in the race has been in the courts and in the news since he qualified last month.

He pleaded guilty in 2008 to accepting money from the sale of fake bonds and spent two years in prison.

Incumbent Ebony Woodruff and Rodney Lyons Sr. are the other two candidates for the seat, which represents Harvey, Marrero and the Woodmere subdivision.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.