Sharpe James wants to return to public office and has sued, alleging that the Newark city clerk has wrongly rejected his motions for a seat on the city council in the upcoming May non-partisan municipal elections.

The 86-year-old James served as mayor from 1986 to 2006, and before that he was a member of the city council for sixteen years.

City clerk Kenneth Lewis referred to a 2008 court ruling that permanently banned James from holding public office following a criminal conviction that led to the former mayor serving 18 months in federal prison

But Thomas Ashley, James’ lawyer, disagrees with the former mayor’s dismissal.

“Sir. James’s position is that although the July 11 order prohibits and prohibits him from holding or holding elected office in New Jersey, it does not prohibit Mr. James from running for public office,” he said in court documents filed in Monday.

Ashley argues that the courts have stated that electoral law must be liberally interpreted to maximize voter choice in elections.

“The right to run for public office – separately and in addition to holding public office – affects two fundamental freedoms: freedom of expression and freedom of association,” Ashley said.

Supreme Court Judge Thomas Vienna has not yet scheduled a hearing. The drawing of ballots is scheduled for Wednesday.

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