Lawyers Lining Up for Upcoming Judicial Vacancies

by John Settle
Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle

Two retirements on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals this year has started a scramble among local attorneys seeking to move up the judicial ladder, –and for some to become first time black “robers.” In January of this year Judge Charles Peatross retired from this appellate bench, and just this week Judge Gay Gaskins announced her long-rumored retirement from the same court.

The Peatross seat will be filled in November by either Caddo Juvenile Judge David Matlock or Caddo District Judge Frances Pitman. This race is one of contrasts –Matlock has served on the juvenile bench for 17 years while Pitman has been a domestic judge since 2008. Matlock previously served on the Caddo Parish School Board and won his seat to the Juvenile Court on his first attempt. Pitman lost a hotly contested runoff for Juvenile Court to Paul Young in 1999; she was unopposed in her bid for the Caddo Bench in 2008.The Supremes

Depending on who wins the November election, either a seat on the Caddo District Bench or on the Caddo Juvenile Court will become open. Although this is yet to be determined and the Court of Appeals election will not be until April 2013, lawyers are beginning to express their interest in the upcoming vacancies. Serious tire-kicking will not really begin until the end of this year, although names of potential candidates are beginning to surface.

If Matlock wins, Clay Walker is the leading candidate to take his seat on the Caddo Juvenile Court. Walker currently serves as the Director of Juvenile Services and in that capacity he oversees the Caddo Juvenile Detention Center and the juvenile probation officers. Clay’s Dad –Henry Walker –is a well known (now retired) local attorney; dad Henry has a distinguished professional reputation, and an admirable history of involvement in social progress issues. There is no doubt that Clay Walker would be a formidable candidate for this seat. Chairs of Justice

If Pitman is elected, one can expect Don Weir, Jr. to jump into the race from the get go. Weir has put out feelers in the legal community and he has received substantial encouragement from attorneys. Weir’s old Shreveport background and family connections would serve him well in the race, and his early interest should dampen the enthusiasm of other potential candidates. Unlike many judicial wantabes, finances should not be a problem for a Weir candidacy.

As far as Gay Gaskin’s seat on the Second Circuit bench, Caddo District Judge Jeanette Garrett has put in dibbs on that spot, –emphatically so. Garrett is a hard campaigner, and she has made it known repeatedly that she wants to move up to the appellate court. Garrett’s service in the Caddo bench in all three court sections (family, criminal and civil) plus her political network will serve her well in the campaign. It is doubtful that Garrett will draw any serious competition in the race, although it is rumored that Jude Mike Pitman (husband of Judge Frances Pitman) also wants to run for Gaskin’s seat.

On the east side of the river, District Judge John Robinson has announced that he will retire at the end of 2014, —and it is possible that Judge Ford Stinson may also hang up his robe. The rumor mill has many names that may run for a 26th Judicial seat including Cynthia Carroll, Randy Robinson, and John Bokenfohr. It is possible that one, or both, of the losers in the upcoming election to replace Judge Bruce Bolin (Whit Graves, Mike Nerren, John Slattery) could also run again.

More, –probably several more –names will surface for the judicial openings after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals race is determined on November 6, —and the outcome of the 26th Judicial Court race, which will most likely be in a December 10th runoff. The domino affect of each election reverberates in the legal community in a big way; to the general public what may be a major tremor to the courthouse crowd is rarely a noticeable event. Nonetheless, the wheels of justice do merit serious consideration of all judicial candidates on both sides of the river, and all these elections bear close scrutiny.