Qualifying starts with ‘moral character’

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Qualifying for Nov. 8’s Presidential and Congressional Primary Election concludes at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

This is important for St. John the Baptist Parish voters because we’ll know by the weekend who our candidates are for 40th Judicial District Court, Division B judge and Justice of the Peace District 4.

The judge’s race promises to include a host of known local names excited to vie for the seat created by the early resignation of Judge Mary Hotard Becnel.

Outside of paying applicable fees, judge’s candidates must have been admitted to practice law in Louisiana for at least eight years prior to election and domiciled in the parish for one year before election.

Judges are not permitted to practice law while in office.

The requirements are more interesting for Justice of the Peace, where candidates have to be “less than 70 years old by date of qualifying” and a resident of the district.

Things get interesting after that. Candidates must also be “of good moral character, able to read and write the English language and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent by date of qualifying.”

The requirements come straight from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office and are based on our state’s election code.

Although we have talented clerks in the St. John the Baptist Parish Clerk of Court’s Office, it’s a good bet they won’t be giving extensive tests on good moral character or the ability to read and write English. Those evaluations will be left to us, the voters.

As many as a half-dozen residents have mentioned their desire to run for judge, an opportunity that is a lot more inviting for newcomers now that Becnel is no longer seeking reelection.

Less than two years ago, she won reelection over only one challenger, earning 81.16 percent of the vote in the process.

Today marks the beginning of a new era, one where local voters again will get to decide who they feel is best. Looking for “good moral character” is a great way to start.