Challenger Morris joins lawsuit against LPSB's Mark Cockerham

by Patrick Flanagan

Attorney Bill Goode is now representing original plaintiff Nancy Cech and challenger Dawn Morris in suit questioning residency of District 7 incumbent.

Dawn Morris, who is opposing District 7 school board incumbent Mark Cockerham in November, has officially joined the lawsuit challenging his residency.

District 7 candidate Dawn Morris

The suit was filed last week by former school system administrator Nancy Cech calling for Cockerham to vacate his seat on the board immediately. The suit claims that the Breeman Circle address Cockerham listed on his qualifying papers isn't within the boundaries of District 7.

Although Morris is a lawyer, she's not the attorney on the new petition. Instead, local criminal defense attorney Bill Goode is now representing Cech and Morris in their claim against Cockerham.

Goode said in an email that he would have no comment at this time.

The central issue with Cockerham centers on the 2010 census, and the resulting reapportionment of Lafayette Parish's political districts. The new district maps, however, won't take effect until Jan. 1.

Based on the old map, adopted in 2002, Cockerham's new residence does fall outside the boundaries of District 7, making him a resident of District 9. Yet Cockerham is a resident of District 7 based on the new map, the one set to take effect in the new year.

The suit is awaiting a hearing in the 15th Judicial District Court, and while it cites Louisiana Revised Statute 17:52E as reason for his immediate removal from office, the law could also be used to argue in favor of his eligibility in the upcoming election, specifically the second paragraph (which appears to be somewhat of a "grandfather clause"):

Any person who at the time of qualification as a candidate for the school board has attained the age of eighteen, resided in the state for the preceding two years, and has been actually domiciled for the preceding year in the parish, ward, or district from which he seeks election is eligible for membership on the school board.

However, at the next regular election for members of the school board following a reapportionment, an elector may qualify as a candidate from any district created in whole or in part from a district existing prior to reapportionment if he was domiciled in the prior district for at least one year immediately preceding his qualification and was a resident of the state for the two years preceding his qualification.

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