Anybody but Dale Cox
When an elected official dies in office, the rumor mill on potential candidates to run for the vacated position usually starts immediately; unfortunately this was the case after the untimely, tragic death of Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott on Monday, April 20th. The consensus response to the “who can replace Charles Scott” question was a simple one–no one of similar statute, integrity and reputation. Nonetheless next elected Caddo DA will be decided this fall—either in the October primary or the November general election if a runoff is needed.
On the Thursday after Scott’s death first assistant DA Dale Cox took the oath of office in a private courthouse ceremony. Later that day Cox called a press conference to announce he was taking over as Caddo DA and confirmed he would run in the special election this fall. Many local attorneys questioned both the process Cox followed—and especially the timing which was before Scott’s funeral. Cox denied that he had made a formal announcement on his candidacy for Caddo DA, stating that he only answered questions by the press.
Scott enjoyed a good reputation with his assistant district attorneys, the criminal defense bar and the court house crowd in general; the same can not be said for Cox who at one time was a highly respected attorney in private practice. Most recently Cox made many statements concerning the need for capital punishment to “serve society’s interest in revenge” and the need “to kill more people” during the media frenzy over the Glenn Ford trial for state payments for a wrongful murder conviction that resulted in over 30 years on Louisiana’s death row. Cox’s statements shocked not only Louisiana citizens, but after making the national media, many legal scholars throughout the nation.
And this was not the first time that Cox has exhibited “over the top” behavior. In the recent cases concerning Shreveport firefighters Cox, who was the lead prosecutor, argued the Pope’s stand on abortion in a hearing concerning the release of information to the firefighter’s defense attorney. Unfortunately this example of questionable if not aberrant behavior is the norm for Cox who has become almost demoniac in his prosecutorial “zeal” which has seriously affected his objectivity and reasonableness as a prosecutor.
Other names that have been mentioned as possible candidates to fill Scott’s unexpired term are plentiful—and thankfully all of those have had the decency to defer any speculation until after Scott’s funeral. Several sitting judges could be in the mix—although a judge could not run for District Attorney unless they resigned their judgeships. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Stewart had long been rumored to retire in the next few years and then become the first assistant as part of a segue to run for the spot when Scott’s current term was to end in 2020. Whether or not he will quit the bench early to jump into this year’s election is an open question; the same can be said for Caddo District Judges John Mosely, Mike Pitman, and Brady O’Callaghan.
Former Second Circuit Judge Gay Gaskins is reportedly a serious candidate for the DA’s race. She was the first female judge elected to Shreveport City Court where she served for 5 years before successfully running for the Court of Appeals. She served on that bench for 17 years before retiring; she is now a private mediator.
As far as assistant District attorneys, Ed Blewer and Dhu Thompson have been mentioned; obviously a run by either of them against their now boss Cox would set up some interesting if not destructive scenarios in that office. The DA’s office has lost several seasoned prosecutors in recent years including O’Callaghan and Cox’ entry into the fall election will further weaken the supervision of the office’s 70 plus staff and its prosecutorial functions. Without a doubt the absence of Scott at the top of the totem pole will lead to more scrutiny of how high profile cases will be handled as well as how Cox will split up his time as the boss and a political candidate in what will be hotly contested political election—his first.
Judges Stewart and Mosley are black; another African American whose name has been mentioned is that of Leon Emanuel who retired as a Caddo District Judge in December 2013. Judge Leon is now the executive director of the Legal Services of North Louisiana, his sister is Caddo District Judge Ramona Emanuel. Many observers do not believe that more than one African American will enter the race.
Other names that have surfaced for the DA race include Don Hathaway, Jr—son of former sheriff Don Hathaway and a former assistant Caddo DA and assistant U.S. Attorney. Craig Smith ran unsuccessfully against Scott in 2008 when Scott was first elected DA and his name has been mentioned along with former Caddo district attorney Jason Waltman who ran unsuccessfully for the Caddo bench against Jeanette Garrett who is now on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Another name that has been favorably mentioned is Ross Owen, a former Caddo assistant district attorney and assistant US Attorney in addition to being former indigent defender; Owens is now in private practice.
In the next few weeks there will be a serious review by all those interested in the DA position as well as political power brokers of potential DA candidates. This race will probably overshadow the Governor’s race in Caddo Parish and it will certainly be one that will be closely followed by local politicos.