Georgia Judge Upholds Disqualification Of Mayoral Candidate

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia judge Monday upheld a city official’s decision to disqualify a candidate for mayor because of a past felony conviction.

Julius Hall had filed paperwork to run in the November election for mayor of Port Wentworth, a city of 11,000 outside Savannah. When a city clerk disqualified him because of a 1991 conviction on a federal cocaine conspiracy charge, Hall sued in Chatham County Superior Court.

Judge Lisa Goldwire Colbert ruled the city official had correctly applied a provision of the Georgia Constitution saying felons can’t seek elected office until 10 years after finishing their sentence. Hall was released from prison in 2016.

Hall's attorneys argued the constitutional restriction no longer applied to him because the state Board of Pardons and Paroles in January agreed to restore Hall's civil rights. The document signed by the board’s executive director says those rights include Hall’s ability to “run for and hold public office.”

The judge wrote that the board has power to remove “disabilities imposed by law as a result of a conviction,” such as Georgia's prohibition on voting by people with felony convictions who have not completed their sentences. But the judge ruled the board has “no authority to remove eligibility requirements to hold public office.”

Hall said he plans to appeal the judge's decision, WTOC-TV reported.