When it comes to running for judge, Douglas Hammel should know a thing or two about the rules.
It was Hammel’s campaign team that last year first accused Yolanda King of living outside New Orleans. The charge was contained in a flier that appeared a few days before King beat him out for a seat on the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court bench.
Yet it appears that the former Jefferson Parish prosecutor, who launched a bid Friday to unseat Judge Terri Love on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, has himself run afoul of the candidate qualifying rules.
Court documents show that Hammel was appointed on July 28 to serve for three days as an ad hoc judge in New Orleans Traffic Court, as a fill-in while Judge Steven Jupiter took an annual leave. Supreme Court Justice Greg Guidry approved Hammel’s assignment on July 30.
Traffic Court Clerk Noel Cassanova said Monday that Hammel “positively sat three days for Jupiter” at the end of last month.
The problem: Supreme Court rules bar attorneys who accept such assignments from qualifying as a candidate “for election to any judicial office for a period of one year immediately following the termination of the appointment.”
Hammel even signed a form on July 28 spelling out his agreement not to qualify for any judicial office, according to documents provided by the Supreme Court.
He did not immediately return phone messages and an email Monday.
If he’s not disqualified, Hammel would be the first to challenge Love since she won the Appeal Court seat unopposed in 2000, according to her official court biography.
Cynthia Samuel, who lost in the primary against Hammel and King last year for the Juvenile Court seat and who is running again this year in a field of seven that includes King, has said Hammel’s allegations against King prompted her to file a complaint with Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office.
The complaint alleged that both Hammel and King violated residency rules in running for the seat last year. However, only the complaint against King drew the interest of Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office, which secured a grand jury indictment in March alleging that King filed a false public document and violated the state election code. That case is pending.
Under state law, any registered voter has seven days to challenge a candidate’s qualifications for office.
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