St. Bernard constable sued over her age is victorious in the end

Constable Hillary Miller, 71, talks about being sued over her age (Source: Sabrina Wilson)
Constable Hillary Miller, 71, talks about being sued over her age (Source: Sabrina Wilson)

CHALMETTE, LA (WVUE) - Mick Jagger was born on July 26, 1943. That makes him 71 years old, and he still can wow an audience. But a St. Bernard Parish elected official who is the same age was recently targeted by a lawsuit because of her age.

"I'm the only woman constable in St. Bernard Parish, and I'm proud of that, and I do a good job," said Hillary Miller, Constable for Ward F.

Critics say a controversial new state law fosters age discrimination. Earlier this year, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law that would prevent incumbent constables and justices of the peace who are age 70 and older from seeking re-election. So last Friday, Miller's lone challenger in the race filed suit against her in an attempt to force Miller out of the race. In the lawsuit, candidate Andrew Sercovich said that because Miller is 71, she is barred from qualifying for re-election.

But on the same day, a Baton Rouge judge issued a preliminary injunction, putting the new law on hold. Whether Miller's challenger was aware of that ruling when he filed the suit in St. Bernard Parish was not clear at the writing of this story.

But Miller showed up at the parish courthouse Tuesday morning for an appearance related to the suit. Eventually, the suit was dismissed.

"When my attorney approached him, he told him I was going for court fees, okay, and attorney fees, and he kind of decided that he was not going to press the issue any further," said Miller.

The attorney for the Louisiana Justice of the Peace and Constables Association calls the new law unconstitutional. He said there is no evidence that constables and justices of the peace of a certain age are not performing their duties.

"There has been no showing whatsoever that this furthers any legitimate or compelling governmental interest," said Rutledge.

Rutledge said they also deserve the same treatment as sheriffs and police chief in the state.

"How do you say, yes you be chief of police, or you can serve as sheriff until you're 100, but you can't serve as a constable for justice of the peace court if you're 70?" asked Rutledge.

Miller said her age is not an impediment.

"I go to the range just like all the deputies and all go, I qualify, I shoot my gun and everything else," she said.

And the legal challenge aside, Constable Miller said she does not do the job for the money. She said she does it because she wants to serve the community she loves.

"This job pays me $500 a month, I use my own car and my own gas, okay."

And the constable who was first elected in the early 1990s said if voters return her to office for another term, she will continue to serve them faithfully.

"I think 70 is the new 40," she said.

Candidate Sercovich did not respond to our requests for comment.

Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved.