King removed from bench while charges pending _lowres

Yolanda King

Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King had a bit of trouble deciding on a place to call home this time.

Indicted for allegedly lying about living in New Orleans on her candidate form last year, and suspended by the state Supreme Court while she faces the criminal charges against her, King was the first in the door Wednesday to declare her candidacy for re-election on Nov. 4.

She eagerly turned in her official, notarized notice of candidacy, the same form that has landed her in hot water with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office.

It listed a post office box in New Orleans as her domicile, or principal place of residence.

That didn’t seem very homey, so King tried again. This time she listed her home as 420 Loyola Ave., Ste. 210 in New Orleans.

That’s the address of Juvenile Court — almost.

There is no 420 Loyola Ave. The territory where that address might be is occupied by a parking lot.

Juvenile Court is actually at 421 Loyola Ave., and the clerk’s office is on the second floor in room 210. Asked by a reporter whether King lives there, a clerk gave a quizzical look.

“Why would she live here?” the court employee said. “This is a workplace.”

For reasons that were unclear, King headed back to Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell’s office for a third try about 1:30 p.m. She submitted a new form listing 5149 Basinview Drive as her domicile.

Assessor’s Office records show the two-story rowhouse in New Orleans East is owned by Garden of Eden Investment Properties. State records list Erroll Audrict Jr. as the firm’s manager. Audrict hung up on a reporter Wednesday after being asked whether King lives at the house.

“I don’t want anything to do with that. I don’t want to make any comments toward that situation,” Audrict said. “I explained that to her.”

All three of King’s candidate statements were notarized by Jennifer Medley, the daughter of Civil District Court Judge Lloyd Medley Jr. She said she was asked to provide notary services to the stream of candidates who filed into Morrell’s office Wednesday for the start of a three-day qualification period for dozens of local offices.

“When they come, they say out of their mouth that this information is true and correct,” Medley said.

An attorney for King, James Williams, said King wasn’t the only candidate to attempt to list an official court address on the candidate forms. He said judges do it “to protect themselves from maybe people they’re prosecuting or whatever.”

He added: “If I were to guess, she was using her official address for not wanting to be subjected to any unwelcome or unannounced visits to her house. I know that’s not unique to Judge King.”

Williams said he was not sure why King returned to provide the New Orleans East address, but he guessed it was a cautionary move to avoid any appearance of “some nefarious motive,” given the criminal allegations against her, which he called unfounded.

Asked if King lives at the Basinview Drive house, Williams responded: “It’s certainly her domicile.”

He said he didn’t know how long King had lived there. In February 2013, when she was running for the Section E seat that she ultimately won, she listed an address on Stillwater Drive, also in New Orleans East.

At the time, Caldwell’s office claims, King actually was living in a house she bought in 2006 on Chancer Lane in Slidell, where for years she claimed a homestead exemption before giving it up last year, claiming it was in error.

Morrell, who oversees local elections, said Wednesday that it’s not his place to verify the addresses of candidates who attempt to qualify for office.

“We don’t even look into that,” he said.

The state constitution says that judges “shall have been domiciled in the respective district, circuit or parish for one year preceding election.”

State law says the “domicile of a natural person is the place of his habitual residence. … A natural person may reside in several places but may not have more than one domicile.”

Under state law, voters have seven days to challenge a candidate’s qualifications.

In the meantime, a battle is playing out in Baton Rouge over whether King’s judgeship even exists anymore. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office, in a bid to implement a law reducing the number of judgeships on the court, has appealed a state district judge’s ruling last week that King’s seat must remain on the ballot unless the state Supreme Court declares it vacant.

Landrieu’s office filed an emergency appeal Tuesday with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. He is seeking to force Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office and Morrell to keep the Section E seat off the ballot.

On Wednesday, Morrell argued that it was too late, saying once King or anyone else put in their candidacy papers, they “have a right to run for it.”

Schedler’s office filed an opposing brief on Wednesday, arguing that it doesn’t have the discretion to halt the election.

King has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of filing a false public record and a misdemeanor count of an election code violation. No trial date has been set.

King’s criminal defense attorney, Clarence Roby Jr., did not return a call for comment.

Roby has argued that King, who appears to be the first person in the state to be criminally charged for an allegedly phony residency claim, is a victim of a malicious, revenge-driven prosecution.

Both District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and Caldwell’s office have denied any such motivation.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.