FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2017-07090,
DIVISION "I-14" Honorable Piper D. Griffin, Judge
L. Jones COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLANTS
Douglas Hammel THE HAMMEL LAW FIRM Arthur A. Morrell Clerk of
Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans COUNSEL FOR
composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano,
Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins, Judge Terrel J. Broussard, Pro
Tempore Judge Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore
CABRINA JENKINS JUDGE
an election contest suit. Plaintiffs/appellants Cassandra
Smith and Keion Smith (collectively, "Plaintiffs")
appeal the trial court's July 27, 2017 judgment denying
Plaintiffs' objection to the candidacy of defendant
Ernest "Freddie" Charbonnet for Orleans Parish City
Council District E.
reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
13, 2017, Mr. Charbonnet filed a signed and notarized Notice
of Candidacy form which included the following certification
as required by La. R.S. 18:463(A)(2)(a):
If I am a candidate for any office other than United States
senator or representative in congress, that for each of the
previous five tax years, I have filed my federal and state
income tax returns, have filed for an extension of time for
filing either my federal or state income tax return or both,
or was not required to file either a federal or state income
tax return or both.
21, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an Objection to Candidacy and
Petition to Disqualify Candidate. The Petition alleged that
Mr. Charbonnet had falsely certified in his Notice of
Candidacy form that he had filed his state income tax returns
for the previous five years. Plaintiffs asserted that Mr.
Charbonnet had not filed income tax returns for 2012 and
21, 2017, Judge Christopher Bruno and Judge Cherrell Simms
Taplin recused themselves. On July 24, 2017, Judge Ethel
Simms Julien, Judge Robin M. Giarrusso, and Judge Sidney H.
Cates, IV recused themselves. On July 24, 2017, this matter
was allotted to Judge Piper D. Griffin, who then signed an
order setting the matter for trial on July 27, 2017.
26, 2017, Mr. Charbonnet filed a Motion to Dismiss the
Plaintiffs' Objection to Candidacy and Petition to
Disqualify Candidate for Failure to Timely Prosecute Pursuant
to La. R.S. 18:1409(A)(1) ("Motion to Dismiss").
argued that the Plaintiffs' objection to his candidacy
should be dismissed because the matter was set for trial
later than 10:00 a.m. on the fourth day after suit was
matter proceeded to trial on July 27, 2017. On that date,
before the introduction of evidence, the trial court signed
an order denying Mr. Charbonnet's Motion to Dismiss.
trial, Plaintiffs introduced correspondence from the
Louisiana Department of Revenue ("LDR") which, in
response to Plaintiffs' public records request, stated
that it could not confirm the filing of Louisiana income tax
returns by Mr. Charbonnet for the years 2012 and 2016. A
representative of LDR also testified at trial that, based on
the information contained in the public records request, the