June 24, 2024

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Files Suit Against State and Parish

Press Release from the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Christopher Tape last week filed suit against the State of Louisiana and the St. Tammany Parish Government, asking that the court declare a recently signed law unconstitutional.

On June 10, Gov. Jeff Landry signed SB452, enrolled as Act 526, transferring control of the Coroner’s Office tax revenue and assets to the St. Tammany Parish Government and placing new requirements for candidates who qualify to run for coroner – but only in St. Tammany Parish.

In the suit, Tape makes clear that Act 526 is a violation of the state Constitution as it takes authority from a Judicial Branch officer and gives it to an Executive Branch authority, thus violating separation of powers. The Act was also unlawful because it applies only to the office of Coroner, and only in St. Tammany Parish.

Additionally, the statute sets forth new requirements for a candidate to run for coroner, including that he or she be “of good moral and ethical character” and “temperate habits.”  Those terms and phrases have no legal definition and are therefore invalid, the lawsuit states.

“This ongoing witch hunt is becoming even more ridiculous,” said Tape, who has been maligned in the media because of a 23-year-old criminal allegation that was dismissed with prejudice. “To suggest that a long-ago, dismissed allegation is suggestive of poor character is as ridiculous as suggesting that someone with arrests for DWI or illegal drug possession is unfit to be a state senator or parish president.

“It’s equally absurd to apply such criteria only to one elected official, in a single parish,” Tape said. “This law is unconstitutional on its face, and I hope the Court will strike it down and keep control of this office where it belongs – with the voters, not politicians.”

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