A state appeals court has upheld a lower-court ruling that disqualified Jefferson Parish School Board member Melinda Doucet’s candidacy for re-election on Nov. 6.
Doucet said Wednesday that she plans to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal ruling put her sole opponent, fellow Harahan Republican Billy North, one step closer to assuming the District 7 seat.
Also on Wednesday, 24th Judicial District Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach disqualified Covington attorney Richard Ducote in his bid to run for the state Supreme Court against incumbent Greg Guidry. She said Ducote failed to show he was exempt from filing nonresident tax returns with the state for 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Ducote said he will appeal the decision to the 5th Circuit.
North challenged Doucet’s candidacy last week, saying she had not filed her state and federal income tax returns, or applications for extensions, for four of the past five years. While Doucet had some documentation for some of the years, her attorneys admitted before 24th Judicial District Judge John Molaison last week that she did not file applications for extensions for her state taxes for 2016 and 2017.
Doucet said she had filed extension requests on her federal taxes and did not know she needed to file for state extensions as well.
She argued that state law can be interpreted to say she needed to file either a request for an extension on her federal income taxes or a request on her state taxes.
A three-judge panel disagreed, saying the clear requirement to file returns for both federal and state taxes extends to requests for extensions.
“Although the statute is inartfully drafted, it is clear that the Legislature intended that a candidate must show that she has filed both federal and state tax returns for the last five years," Judge Marion Edwards wrote. "Filing for an extension of time for one does not relieve the potential candidate from the obligation to either file a timely return, or an extension to file the other.”
In the case of Ducote, the candidate for a state Supreme Court seat, Judge Kovach ruled that his challenger, attorney Stephen Petit, did not sufficiently prove Ducote hadn’t filed some of the required forms on time.
She also ruled Ducote sufficiently rebutted Petit’s assertion that he lives in Pennsylvania, not Covington, by showing he now lives on the north shore despite having a law office in Pittsburgh.
On the matter of taxes, however, Kovach said Ducote failed to prove he wasn’t required to file taxes on the income he earned while practicing law in Louisiana between 2013 and 2015.