Thursday, March 22, 2007

Possibly A Case To Watch For?

A couple of days ago, I posted some comments about Governor Blanco's announcement that she would not be seeking re-election. It seems that people found these comments interesting, judging by the number of hits on this post and the fact it was linked to from elsewhere.

In the previous post, I noted that the current wisdom then was that Senator John Breaux would announce his candidacy for the Governorship. I also noted that we could expect all sorts of antics from the Republicans, should Breaux choose to run, as Bobby Jindal's camp believes him to be a serious challenger, unlike other potential candidates. As the say in the Bible, "And lo, it came to pass."

The Republican Party of Louisiana has 'paid for and authorized' a television commercial attacking Breaux already, despite the fact that he has not yet even announced his candidacy! The Republican commercial takes the line that Breaux is just a big bucks lobbyist these days. They have fun with Google Earth in the commercial showing Breaux's big house. Of course, one hopes that the Republican's remembered to pay all the appropriate royalties to Google for the use of this footage.

This is not the big message of the commercial, however. According to the Republican's Breaux simply cannot run for Governor, as he does not satisfy the requirement of Article IV, Sec. 2, of The Louisiana State Constitution of 1974 to be a candidate for State political office. There it is stated that,

"To be eligible for any statewide elective office, a person, by the date of his qualification as a candidate, shall have attained the age of twenty-five years, be an elector, and have been a citizen of the United States and of this state for at least the preceding five years."

According to the Republicans, as Breaux has recently been living in Maryland, he is not, to quote their commercial, a "citizen...for at least the preceding five years." They even show a Maryland Voter Registration Application which Breaux allegedly filled out, to bolster their case. It is worth noting that on this application, if Breaux really filled it out, the only address that is visible is one in Crowley, Louisiana.

There have been various press reports about this commercial. The consensus is that the issue of whether Breaux is qualified to run will have to be determined by the Courts. This has the potential to be a very interesting case, if it ever gets to court.

However, before M'Learned friends get a chance to consider this matter, it seemed to me that this would be a fun little research project for The Combat Philosopher.

If we consult the OED we find that the primary definition of 'citizen' is,

An inhabitant of a city or (often) of a town; esp. one possessing civic rights and privileges, a burgess or freeman of a city.

However, given that the OED is a British publication, it may not be entirely apposite here. Unfortunately, the Merriam-Webster primary definition is almost identical. However, as a secondary definition the following is offered,

"...a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it."

Thus, there appear to be two avenues that Breaux's legal team could follow, based upon these dictionary definitions. (1) They could argue for Breaux's 'allegiance' to the State of Louisiana, or (2) they could argue that Breaux has certain 'civic rights and privileges' in the State of Louisiana. Both these claims could be bolstered to a degree by the fact that Breaux still owns land in Crowley, Louisiana.

In fact, there may be other considerations that may be relevant here too. The ever dubious Wikipedia entry on citizenship discussed all sorts of different uses of the notion in various contexts, around the world.

Although the above is interesting, it is not really conclusive. Thus, it was time to take another step. I had a look at the relevant case law that I could find in the State of Louisiana. Although I am not a lawyer, I do have access to certain legal research tools, through the University library.

As best as I can tell, there is no real case law that has addressed the issue what constitutes a 'citizen' in the relevant respects, under the State Constitution. The few cases that did show up all concerned whether, or not convicted folks could get the right to hold public office, after various legal things had happened, like being pardoned by the Governor.

The cases which did show up, that appeared to be on point all dealt not with the issue of citizenship, but rather the issue of 'domicile'. For example, the Landiak v. Richmond (2005) case, considered whether a candidate lived in the correct location to run for the New Orleans council. Again, this appeared to be of limited relevance in the current situation.

Thus, if this cursory search is correct, it will appear that should the case ever get to court, it will be entering into entirely uncharted territory. This could make it pretty exciting! It is also worth noting in passing that my various searches also managed to pull up a large number of cases of judges getting disciplined for various things. This serves to make the prospects of this potential case even wilder.

There are at least some people who appear to believe that Breaux should not worry too much about this potential legal challenge. There already is a web site that is advocating Breaux's candidacy. There is very little there at the moment, although when I looked 602 people had expressed an interest (one actually had registered whilst I was looking at the site). There is a potential campaign commercial, that is quite interesting viewing (follow either the 'News', or the 'view video ad' links).

The video works hard at establishing Breaux's Louisiana credentials. It claims that he was born in Louisiana, was a citizen for 64 years, is married to a woman from Lafayette, attended USL and LSU, before outlining his achievements whilst a Senator. It even includes a quote from Stupid W. Bush extolling all the wonderful things Breaux has done for Louisiana people. Of course, linking Breaux to the moron of the Whitehouse, may not be such a good idea, but it may appeal to some disgruntled Republicans.

So, we shall now have to wait and see if/when Breaux will announce his candidacy. In their commercial, the Republicans conclude with the line that, "Breaux may be wealthy and powerful, but he is not above the law." However, as the law appears to be largely untested, or uninterpreted, such a conclusion appears rather premature. When the time for testing comes, it could be a highly amusing case. Who knows what the courts my decide? Hell, it could all turn on Breaux's abilities at peeling crawfish! Watch this space.

The CP


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