NEW ORLEANS – Despite his reelection Tuesday to the Orleans Parish Criminal Court, longtime Judge Frank Marullo is likely looking at a rough road ahead.
Marullo, 74, will probably continue to encounter challenges to his age, as judges in Louisiana are constitutionality required to retire at 70, and is supposedly under investigation for allegedly offering an opponent a job to drop out of the three-way race.
The negative press surrounding Marullo’s age and alleged ethics violation, however, didn't seem to matter as Marullo easily defeated challengers Marie Williams and Graham Bosworth, each of whom garnered about 24 percent of the vote while the judge first elected in 1974 received more than 51 percent of the 98,591 votes cast in the race.
Marullo, who was hit with a lawsuit in August over his ability to run for office at his age, will likely continue to face challenges over it, especially since a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to overturn age limits forcing judges to retire failed in a statewide vote Tuesday, with 58 percent of voters in favor of keeping it.
In the lawsuit filed against Marullo, New Orleans residents and plaintiffs Marian Cunningham, Lisa Amoss and Robert Amoss cited the 1974 Louisiana Constitution as the basis for their claim the longtime judge couldn't run for office because he was over 70.
The judge argued that because he took office before the 1974 Louisiana Constitution took effect, he fell under the previous constitution that required judges to retire at 75.
Marullo, however, is set to turn 75 before the term he was just elected to begins next year.
Judge Kern A. Reese ruled in favor of Marullo in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court and the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld Reese’s ruling. The Louisiana Supreme Court later refused to hear the case.
But, in his initial ruling, Reese was clear that he was simply ruling on whether Marullo was eligible to run for office, not if he was eligible to take office once elected. Reese said that if Marullo takes office after turning 75, the Louisiana Supreme Court may have the discretion to step in and force his retirement from the bench.
Age aside, Marullo also faces accusations from his previous campaign challenger, Williams, who claims he offered her a job in exchange for her dropping out of the race.
Marullo’s comments were allegedly caught on tape by Williams, who was reportedly wearing a wire during a lunch the two had at a New Orleans restaurant. After the meeting, Williams turned the tape over to WDSU-TV, which aired the recordings and later reported that the FBI was seeking more information about the pair's meeting.
Marullo has denied Williams' allegations and said it was his understanding the meeting pertained to Williams dropping out of the race on her own accord and he was seeking her support. He also said the two discussed a potential appointment for Williams, but that was at her request.