Now A Real Race for the Court of Appeals

by John Settle
Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle

Attention all voters in Election District 3 for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals – you will have a choice in filling the unexpired term of former Justice Charles Peatross who retired earlier this year. The two candidates are Chief Judge David Matlock of the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court and Caddo District Judge Francis Pitman, and the election will be on November 6, 2012. And if you do not know if you are in District 3, then join the club!

District 3 encompasses all of DeSoto and Red River Parishes – which together have almost 24,000 registered voters. The break out party-wise is 55% Democrats, 25% Republican and the rest Other Parties. Race wise, 59% of the voters in the two parishes are white, 38% black and the remainder other races.

Only part of Caddo may vote

District 3 includes approxiamtely70% of the registered Caddo voters. The party break out in Caddo Parish is 40% Democrats, 37% Republican and the remainder other parties. Race wise, the district is predominately white – – over 80,000 white voters compared to 30,300 black voters.

Judge Matlock has been on the Caddo Juvenile bench for almost 17 years, and Judge Frances has served also 4 years as a district judge. Before donning the black robe, Matlock practiced 14 years with Austin and Shreveport law firms and Pitman spent 16 years with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office. Both candidates are registered Republicans.

Both candidates are well connected, and each can expect substantial support from their respective churches – Matlock is a member of Broadmoor Baptist and Pitman is a member of Summer Grove Baptist. Pitman’s campaign will be well funded from family resources, and Matlock is expected to hold his own in fundraising in what some wags are calling “Battle of the Baptists”.

Matlock served on the Caddo Parish School Board from 1990 to 1994. He has also served on the board of directors of The Shreveport Symphony, The McDade House, the Shreveport Bossier Rescue Mission and the Hilman House. Pitman has founded a marital arts program at her church and served as a Moderator for “Dateline Shreveport” television program.

Voting should be heavy on November 6 in the presidential election – although some political observers believe there will be a lower turn out of black voters than in the Obama-McCain election. Nonetheless, wooing of the Afro-American community will certainly be critical for both candidates – and how each will pitch to those voters is the $64 question. And although the electorate in Red River and DeSoto Parishes is very low compared to Caddo, these voters could decide the fate of the election.

Matlock surprised most political observers when he soundly thumped a experienced juvenile court prosecutor in his 1994 election. Pitman lost a run-off election against Paul Young for juvenile court judge in 1999 and ran unopposed for the Caddo seat in 2008. The candidates have very contrasting personalities, and the intrigue of having a candidate (Frances Pitman) whose husband is also a judge (Mike Pitman) should provide additional flavor to the race.

Generally speaking, judicial races are real exciting – like watching paint dry or grass grow, and it unlikely that this election will be any different. Most voters have little interaction with the judicial system at the district court level, much less the court of appeals. Although judicial candidates can not take direct shots at each other, one should not be surprised if some fireworks are set off during the campaign.