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North v. Doucet

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

August 1, 2018

BILLY JOSEPH NORTH
v.
MELINDA DOUCET AND JON GEGENHEIMER, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CLERK OF COURT FOR THE PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 785-869, DIVISION "E" HONORABLE JOHN J. MOLAISON, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, BILLY JOSEPH NORTH, Stephen M. Petit, Jr., Brittany D. Rogers

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, MELINDA DOUCET W. J. LeBlanc, Jr.

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore

          MARION F. EDWARDS, JUDGE PRO TEMPORE JUDGE

         AFFIRMED

         MFE

         JGG

         MEJ

         This is an election suit contesting a candidate's qualification for candidacy for the Jefferson Parish School Board District 7.[1] For the reasons articulated below, we affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 18, 2018, Melinda Doucet, who is the incumbent, 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)(iv):

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. (Emphasis added).

         On July 23, 2018, plaintiff, Billy Joseph North, [2] filed suit objecting to Ms. Doucet's candidacy, [3] asserting that Ms. Doucet had falsely certified in her Notice of Candidacy that she had filed her state income tax returns for three of the five previous years - 2013, 2016, and 2017 - and, therefore, must be disqualified as a candidate for office pursuant to La. R.S. 18:492 and La. R.S. 18:494(A).

         At trial on July 26, 2018, [4] Mr. North introduced correspondence to and from the Louisiana Department of Revenue ("LDR"), which, in response to a public records request, stated that LDR had a tax return filed by Ms. Doucet for the year

         2014, but could not confirm the filing of state tax returns by Ms. Doucet for the years 2013, 2015, 2016, or 2017. A representative of LDR verified this in testimony at trial. The representative confirmed he had performed a diligent search but could find no record of any income tax returns filed by Ms. Doucet in 2013, 2015, 2016 or 2017.

         Ms. Doucet admitted at trial that she did not file state tax returns for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017. She stated that she filed for extensions for those years. However, on further questioning, Ms. Doucet admitted that the extensions for the years 2016 and 2017 were federal tax, not state tax extensions.

         Ms. Doucet's tax attorney, John Ponsetti, testified that there was some confusion between Ms. Doucet and her daughter with the IRS that began with the 2013 tax returns. Mr. Ponsetti stated that he filed extensions for federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, but not for state taxes. Mr. Ponsetti verified documents showing an online request for an extension was filed with the state for the 2015 tax year, and requests for federal extensions for the years 2013, 2016 and 2017. However, he denied filing for state extensions in 2013, 2016 or 2017. Mr. Ponsetti explained that under the old law, federal extensions automatically applied to state tax. However, that law changed "a few years ago." In conclusion, Mr. Ponsetti testified that, to his knowledge, Ms. Doucet did not file state income tax returns for 2015, 2016 and 2017.

         At the close of the hearing, the trial judge found that there was no evidence to show that Ms. Doucet filed her state income tax returns for 2015, 2016 and 2017. The trial court ...


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