The longest-serving judge in Louisiana was in the gym Friday night, hitting the weights and toning his 74-year-old body for a run at another six-year term.
Frank Marullo is in full campaign mode, despite a mandatory age limit of 70 for judges under the Louisiana constitution — a cap he argues doesn’t apply to him, and him alone.
Graham Bosworth begs to differ, and the 35-year-old defense attorney and former Orleans Parish prosecutor has been preparing to run for more than a year, setting up a compelling intergenerational battle for the Section D seat that Marullo has held for 40 years.
“I kind of always thought I was gonna run. What really put the hat on it was, I just don’t know what I would do with myself if I wasn’t there,” Marullo said.
Marullo, long a thorn in the side of district attorneys from Harry Connick to Leon Cannizzaro, noted that he has essentially worked for free for more than a decade, given his vested retirement benefits.
“I’m sitting, not making any money, but I like doing what I do,” he said.
Marullo is planning an Aug. 7 campaign kickoff party that has become a tradition, with big-name musical acts that in the past have included Irma Thomas and Fats Domino.
Bosworth, meanwhile, says he never figured to be in this situation — especially not after he sat down with Marullo more than a year ago. At that time, he said, Marullo told him he was legally precluded from running.
“I respect Judge Marullo and approached him initially because of my respect. I never intended to run against an incumbent,” Bosworth said, adding that he doesn’t think Marullo can legally qualify for another term.
“The mere fact he’s come out and said, ‘I’m running,’ as far as I can tell, has no bearing or weight. I don’t think he can run. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.”
Bosworth, who served five years in the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office and now does contract public defense in Jefferson Parish, stopped short of saying he would launch a legal challenge if Marullo qualifies for the race.
But a legal challenge from someone seems likely.
Marullo argues that he falls under the state’s 1921 constitution, which, at the time he was first elected, had an age limit of 75 for judges. A 1988 Louisiana Supreme Court decision seems to support his argument that age limits are a “judicial service right” that can’t be lost with a new constitution.
Adding intrigue is a potentially ticklish legal wrinkle: Marullo will turn 75 on New Year’s Eve, leading some to speculate that legally he may be young enough to run, but too old — even under the former age limit — to take office in the new year.
Marullo said his lawyers have told him he’s good to go.
“If the people elect me to that office, I don’t know how they could deny the people’s choice,” he said.
Appointed by then-Gov. Edwin Edwards, Marullo first took the bench in 1974, beating the new constitution and its lower age limit by less than four months — and Bosworth’s existence by a half-decade.
Fleming to run for judge in Jeff Parish
Zoe Olivia Fleming, a local lawyer, will run in November for a seat on the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna.
She is hoping to replace Judge Ross LaDart, who has reached the mandatory retirement age, in Division O.
Fleming, a Republican, cited her three decades of experience in civil, family, and criminal law, and promised to be fair to attorneys, understanding toward litigants and uninfluenced by politics.
“I will be different from the recent history of so many bad choices inflicted upon the residents of this parish by elected officials who have an agenda to help themselves and not the quality of this parish, which has suffered as a result,” she said in her announcement.
Fleming ran for Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court last year but lost to Baron Burmaster.
Frank Buck, an independent, also has announced he will run for the Division O seat. The primary is Nov. 4.
Compiled by staff writers John Simerman and Chad Calder