State appeals court upholds disqualification of Derrick Shepherd in state House race _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.

The Louisiana Supreme Court declined Wednesday to hear convicted felon Derrick Shepherd’s appeal of a lower court ruling that disqualified him from running for the District 87 seat in the state House of Representatives, effectively ending his candidacy.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Valerie Willard confirmed the decision.

Shepherd declined comment.

In other election news, a state appeals court struck down an attempt by Jason Hughes to stay in the race for House District 100.

The Supreme Court’s action means Shepherd, a former state legislator who served two years in prison after pleading guilty to public corruption in 2008, will be removed from the ballot for the seat representing part of the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

The only bright spot for Shepherd is that the Supreme Court said it will consider his challenge to the constitutional provision that prevents convicted felons from running for office within 15 years after completing their sentences.

That hearing, however, will not come in time to help him in time for the Oct. 24 election.

Shepherd won the first round of the constitutional battle in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge last month when Judge Wilson Fields agreed that the provision is null and void because the wording of the constitutional amendment that was approved by the voters didn’t match what was passed by the Legislature. The state appealed that verdict directly to the Supreme Court.

The decision to disqualify Shepherd originated in the 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish and was upheld by the state 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.

Wednesday’s decision leaves the District 87 race between incumbent Ebony Woodruff and Rodney Lyons Sr. The district includes Harvey, Marrero and the Woodmere subdivision.

Shepherd pleaded guilty to accepting $140,000 from the sale of fake bonds while he was a state senator. Before his election to the Senate, he had represented District 87, the seat he was hoping to reclaim.

In candidate forums and discussions with reporters and voters, Shepherd has cast his latest candidacy as a bid for redemption that could serve as an inspiration to others who have made mistakes and owned up to them.

In the District 100 race, Hughes had been disqualified last week when Civil District Court Judge Chris Bruno found that his failure to file a state tax return in 2010 meant he had violated an oath candidates are required to take swearing they have filed all required taxes for the past five years. Hughes said he wasn’t aware that he had to file that year because he didn’t think he owed the government any money.

Four judges on a five-judge panel agreed with Bruno. The lone dissent, from Judge Paul Bonin, argued that the courts do not have the right to determine whether a candidate for a legislative seat is qualified to run for office.

The disqualification leaves John Bagneris, Willie Jones, Shawn Lockett and Alicia Plummer Clivens in the race for the eastern New Orleans seat now held by state Rep. Austin Badon, who is preventing from running for re-election by term limits.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.