Legal challenge to Denton’s candidacy put on hold

Jerry Denton
Jerry Denton

A legal challenge to Jerry Denton’s candidacy for the Louisiana 1st Circuit Court of Appeal was put on hold Monday until an ad hoc judge can determine whether the 21st Judicial District Court judges should be recused from hearing the case.

Amite lawyer Charles “Boo” Christmas filed the lawsuit Thursday in 21st Judicial District Court in Amite, alleging that Denton failed to disclose more than $261,000 in federal tax liens.

The lawsuit also says that Denton, who is Denham Springs city marshal, had to certify under oath in his notice of candidacy that he had met state and federal income tax requirements for the past five years, but the suit alleges Denton did not certify that he filed a state income tax return for 2008.

Denton has denied the allegations, calling them “ridiculous” and “political.”

The case was assigned to Judge Elizabeth Wolfe and set for hearing at 9 a.m. Monday.

However, Denton’s attorney, Brian Abels, filed a motion to have all the judges of the 21st Judicial District recused because Denton’s opponent in the race is 21st Judicial District Judge Ernest G. “Ernie” Drake Jr.

The Louisiana Supreme Court appointed ad hoc Judge Jerome Winsburg to hear the motion, and a hearing was set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Abels also asked that the case be transferred to another jurisdiction, either to the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge or to a state court outside the 1st Circuit’s jurisdiction.

Ron Macaluso, an attorney for Christmas, argued Monday that the motion to recuse assumes that the district’s judges, and Wolfe in particular, would want Drake to leave his position as district judge and move to the appellate court.

Unless Wolfe has a direct connection to either Christmas or Denton that would render her incapable of being impartial in the case, recusal would be improper, Macaluso said.

Wolfe said Monday she did not have the authority to hear the motion to recuse.