In a 4-3 vote, the Louisiana Supreme Court on Friday overturned the Caddo District Court and Louisiana 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decisions denying bid for re-election, giving Perkins the green light for his bid for a second term.
The ruling means Perkins will be among the ten candidates on the ballot in the Shreveport mayor’s race in November.
“To the four Supreme Court justices, that, due diligence, interpretation of the law, that is going to allow these citizens of Shreveport to vote on who is going to be the mayor over the next four years, I want to say thank you,” Perkins said in a news conference early Friday afternoon. “Your values, your courage, definitely put up points in the democracy column today and in the justice column, so thank you for what you did.”
The ruling comes three days after the state’s highest court heard oral arguments in Perkins’ appeal of the lower court rulings.
A Caddo District Court disqualified Perkins’ bid for re-election on August 2 in response to a lawsuit filed July 29 challenging Perkins’ candidacy after he filled out his candidate qualification form stating his address was in the 9600 block of Stratmore Circle, where he was registered to vote, and signed it under oath.
In running for office in Louisiana, Title 18 election laws require a candidate to use the same address where they take Homestead Exemption, and Perkins claims his exemption at the downtown Shreveport condominium he bought in May 2019.
Perkins appealed his disqualification to Louisiana’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and on August 9, a three-judge panel voted 3-0 to uphold the District Court’s decision. Last week, Perkins appealed that decision to the state’s highest court.
Regardless that Perkins swore under oath and before witnesses that he lived at the southeast Shreveport address on his candidacy form, Friday’s ruling opined that the grounds used for Perkins’ disqualification did not fall under the relevant statute under Louisiana law because the homestead exemption clause or question No. 8 on the candidacy form is not specifically addressed in the Louisiana Revised Statute Title 18 laws governing the disqualification of a candidate.’
At the end of 26 pages, Chief Justice John Weimer, writing for the majority, wrote, ” This court finds that La. R.S. 18:492(A)(5) through (7) provides the exclusive list of false certifications that can serve as a ground to challenge candidacy. Because Perkin’s inaccurate certification as to Item 8 on the notice of candidacy form is not expressly listed in La. R.S. 18:492 as a basis to challenge candidacy, it cannot serve as a basis to disqualify him as a candidate. Therefore the rulings of the lower courts disqualifying Perkins as a candidate for mayor of the city of Shreveport are reversed.”
Three justices, Jefferson Hughes III, Jay McCallum and Scott Crichton dissented from the majority, and two of those justices, McCallum and Crichton assigned reasons for their dissents.
Crichton was firm in his dissenting opinion, writing, “In my view, a majority of this Court has made an enormous mistake in failing to uphold the sanctity of our electoral process.”
He went on to write that Perkins, who testified that with the help of several members of his campaign team and his personal attorney he signed and filed his Notice of Candidacy for Mayor under oath and in the presence of witnesses.
Pointing to the certification Perkins signed, Crichton wrote that it contains no condition that it was true and correct “to the best of the candidate’s knowledge, information and belief.”
Crichton wrote that by rejecting “the sound ruling of the trial court,” along with the unanimous decision from the court of appeal, “renders the Notice of Candidacy form meaningless….In my view, the majority makes a critical error in failing to enforce both the letter and spirit of the election code, thus compromising the integrity and sanctity of the process.”
Finally, he called for “legislative intervention,” to make clear that all statements made in a sworn notice of candidacy must actually be true, and any violation is grounds for disqualification.
McCallum, who wrote that he agreed with Crichton’s opinion, added that the law determining the eligibility of a candidate for public office are clear-cut, and the Deal versus Perkins case only required reading that law to resolve the case, “not divination of legislative intent. “
He explained, “The Court should read the clear statutory language and apply that language to the undisputed facts. We need not look to the intent of the legislature,” explaining that the law governing the candidacy requirements is “unambiguous and clear.”
Perkins spoke for a total of two minutes and declined to answer any questions.
“I want to be able to address the citizens of Shreveport the exact same way throughout this entire ordeal, we didn’t just want to put out a press release. I wanted them to hear the words coming out of my mouth on how grateful I am today.”
Perkins went on to thank God and his supporters before thanking the justices and touting his plans for the city if re-elected.
“We are going to continue to do the work for Shreveport, we have already announced initiatives from early childcare to the infrastructure grant that we just received from the federal government the $22 million. We’re going to continue to do the work and we have so many more exciting announcements in store for our citizens.”