An obscure law is forcing nearly 200 elected officials in Louisiana out of office because they’re too old


A U.S. District Court in Alexandria, La. (via Google Maps)

An obscure Louisiana law barring people older than 70 from running for constable or justice of the peace  is forcing almost 200 people to retire this November.

The law, passed in 2008, included a grandfather clause allowing those elected before 2006 to remain in office, said Connie Moore, president of the Louisiana Justice of the Peace and Constables Association. However, it was recently amended.

“It was an obscure law,” Moore said, and unless you worked with justices of the peace and constables, she said, “you probably didn’t know it existed.”

Sen. Elbert Guillory (R) sponsored the amendment, which eliminates the grandfather clause, after receiving several calls from someone claiming to work at the association who “knew inside information,” Guillory said. He also received a letter that was a draft of the amendment, he said.

“There was a problem of people who were in wheelchairs and oxygen tanks and carrying weapons. A combination of infirmity and gun powder doesn’t mix well,” Guillory said the individual told him. He said he does not know who the person was and that he has not spoken with them since.

Constables carry firearms, and justices of the peace may, as well, Moore said.

Lawmakers thought they were doing what the association wanted, Guillory said, but Moore said her group “did not have anything to do with this bill,” which passed with a single “no” vote in the legislature. She said she contacted those who might be disgruntled with the association, but none of them said they made any calls about the law. She also said Guillory told her the phone number from which he received the mysterious calls about the amendment has been disconnected and that the draft of the law he received is missing.

The amendment means about 160 justice and constables who were previously immune from the age restriction can no longer seek reelection, according to Moore. About 30 others who were elected after 2006 also will not be able to seek reelection because of their age.

Guillory said he plans to introduce new legislation that would roll the recent amendments back, and lawyers are looking at potentially challenging the law on constitutional grounds.

“What we want to do is what’s best for Louisiana,” Guillory said. “I don’t see 70 as some magic number.”

Hunter Schwarz covers state and local politics and policy across the country for the Washington Post.
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