Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Judge rules in Bossier City Term Limits case

by BIZ Magazine
gavel lying on desk

Stacey Tinsley | Bossier Press-Tribune

On Thursday February 8, 2024, Bossier-Webster 26th Judicial District Court Judge Michael Craig ruled in favor of the Bossier City Council regarding a lawsuit the city council filed in September of last year. The lawsuit named Bossier Parish Registrar of Voters, Stephanie Agee, and a representative of the Bossier Term Limits Coalition, David Crockett, as defendants.

The city’s lawsuit alleges that a petition requesting that a term limits proposition be placed on an upcoming election ballot submitted to Bossier City Council by the Bossier Term Limits Coalition did not include the date of birth for those that had signed the petition, as required by the Louisiana Election Code. Therefore as the lawsuit insists, the term limits petition should not have been certified.

Following the judicial decision, the Bossier Press-Tribune reached out to Bossier Term Limits Coalition representative David Crockett for a statement regarding Judge Craig’s ruling:

“The Bossier Term Limits Coalition was disappointed by Judge Craig’s ruling on our Term Limits Petition. The Louisiana Attorney General argued that the registrar accurately followed the procedures to certify our petition and that there is no procedure to decertify a petition that was properly certified. They also argued that the certification was only actionable for 120 days after the petition was received by the city and the issue became moot after the city decided not to put the propositions on the ballot,” said Crockett.

Crockett continued, “our argument is that the Bossier City Charter includes controlling provisions which state that a petition that is “signed, examined, amended and certified” by the registrar should trigger city council action to put term limits on the ballot and let the people decide if they want term limits for their city government officials. Louisiana statutes for other types of petitions, such as a recall petition or an incorporation petition, require “strict adherence” to a list of items that must be included on a petition as per Louisiana Revised Statute 18:3. However when a city has a charter, such as Bossier City, the charter should control the process to change the charter. The Bossier City Charter does not direct strict adherence to the statute, and we believe this should have influenced the judge’s decision.”

“Our petition included the Voter ID number for each person who signed the petition. I argued that the voter ID is a singularly unique way to absolutely identify the person’s voter registration record and it is inclusive of the date of birth. The Bossier Term Limits Coalition is already gathering signatures for a second petition that will include date of birth, but this should not have been necessary. The Bossier City Charter Commission is discussing term limits as an issue to consider for the update to the city charter. I encourage Bossier City citizens to contact their charter commission representative and ask for term limits verbatim as the Term Limits Petition states,” Crockett concluded.

In February 2023, the Bossier City Term Limits Coalition held its first news conference and began collecting signatures from the Bossier Parish citizens who were in attendance at the news conference for the support of term limits as they relate to those elected to serve on the Bossier Parish Police Jury and the Bossier City Council, as well as the person elected to serve as the mayor of Bossier City.

In July 2023, the city council was presented with a petition requesting that an amendment be made to the Bossier City Charter to enact term limits for the mayor and the city council. The petition called for an election to be held so that the residents of Bossier City could decide whether or not they wanted these term limits to be put into place.

In the same month, a press conference was held by the Bossier City Term Limits Coalition to discuss the developments that took place at the Bossier City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday July 18, 2023. At this meeting, the Bossier City Council approved a resolution to retain outside legal counsel for a legal opinion regarding the enactment of term limits for public officials in Bossier City. The resolution passed with five council members in support and two in opposition. In August of 2023, the Bossier City Council requested an opinion from the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General, but the request was denied.

At its Tuesday October 3, 2023 regular meeting, the Bossier City Council
voted to reject a resolution calling for a special election to be held in the City of Bossier City regarding the adoption of amendments to the current city charter for the City of Bossier City. Earlier that same day (prior to the Bossier City Council meeting), news broke that the Bossier City Council was suing the Bossier Parish Registrar of Voters and the Bossier Term Limits Coalition over the term limits petition.

In the petition for declaratory judgment filed on Friday, September 29, 2023, Bossier Parish Registrar of Voters (Stephanie Agee) and a representative of the Bossier Term Limits Coalition (David Crockett) were named as defendants. The lawsuit asked for a judicial ruling in order to determine if the Bossier Term Limits Coalition’s petition complied with Louisiana state law. The lawsuit also asked for a determination as to whether or not the petition was deficient, since it didn’t include the dates of birth for those who signed the petition, therefore questioning its certification by the registrar in terms of being proper and valid.

At its Tuesday September 5, 2023 regular meeting, the Bossier City Council voted to approve a resolution authorizing the city attorney to take legal action in order to determine the validity of the certification of the petition brought forward by the Bossier Term Limits Coalition.

The Bossier City Term Limits Coalition includes: The Bossier Republican Party Executive Committee, The Bossier Democrat Party Executive Committee, The NAACP and The Convention of States.

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