Potential Caddo DA Candidates Should NOT Wait for Judge Stewart’s Decision

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John Settle-Opinion-May 2015It has been over a month since the untimely death of former Caddo District Attorney Charles R. Scott and the guessing games on who will run for this coveted spot that is second only in political power (if not equal) to the parish sheriff continues. The only real certainty is that Dale Cox—the unelected but sworn in Caddo DA– plans on running for the spot; he has quickly changed the power structure in the DA’s office to reflect his hard line policies.

Former Caddo assistant district attorney Jason Waltman says he definitely will NOT run. Sitting Caddo district judges have taken their names off any candidate list and some believe that former Second Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Gay Gaskin is re-thinking this race; her husband works for the DA’s office which obviously could cause problems. Who Will Run2New names in the mix include former Caddo assistant DA Dhu Thompson, Douglas Lee Harville and Ron Lattier. Craig Smith, Ross Owens, Don Hathaway, Jr., and former Caddo Judge Leon Emanuel are still expressing interest in this election.

When questioned as to their intentions almost every potential candidate says that they are waiting to see “what Stewart does.” The reference is to Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Stewart—the brother of Carl Stewart, the Chief Judge of the (federal) 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the uncle of newly seated Caddo District Judge Karelia Stewart. Judge James had reportedly been lined up as the successor for Charles Scott when his term was to end in 2018; Stewart will be fully vested in his Second Circuit retirement (which he reportedly must share with a former spouse) in 2 more years. Reportedly Stewart was to retire then and become Scott’s first assistant. Reportedly Stewart was to retire then and become Scott’s first assistant. This scenario would probably have lead to a cake walk election for Stewart, especially if he had gained the endorsement of Scott.

As in most Caddo elections skin color will be a key factor in the DA race; the mere mention of 3 black DA candidates has upset many black politicos. Judge James could be joined by retired Judge Leon and Lattier—all of whom are African American with different credentials and political allies. The Caddo registered voter break down is 54% white; 46% black and 4% other.

Caddo District Judge Brady OCallaghan??
Caddo District Judge Brady OCallaghan??

Judge Leon sat many years on the Caddo criminal bench along with his sister Judge Ramona Emanuel; Judge Ramona is second in seniority on the Caddo bench and will become Caddo’s first black chief judge when Judge Bobby Waddell retires (or ages out). Judge Leon is now the executive director of Northwest Louisiana Legal Services and he is very well known in the black community; he was the first black Shreveport City Court judge.

Ron Lattier has had a high profile handing many cases for the City of Shreveport and he enjoys a very favorable reputation among attorneys, both white and black. Lattier is also legal counsel for the Caddo Levee Board which is a political plum in and of itself; he is the first black attorney in this position. Ron’s wife is Shreveport City Judge Pam Lattier; Judge Pam has a strong political following.

Judge Leon and Ron Lattier have a decided political advantage over Judge James; the judicial canons of ethics severely limit what Judge James can do and say regarding this interest in the DA position. To run for DA Judge James must retire—which means giving up a very hefty paycheck with very generous benefits—and then look for a job if he is not successful in his DA bid. Judge Leon and Lattier do not have these restrictions.

There need to be "Checks" (even on judges!)
“Checks”… even on judges!

True to his nature, Judge James is being very coy about his political aspirations—as well he should be. There are allegations that he became involved in his niece’s race for the Caddo bench by discouraging candidates from entering that race. There is no doubt that the actions and words of Judge James are being carefully monitored by potential opponents.

Many of the legal profession, including elected officials, are urging retired 5-term Caddo DA Paul Carmouche to jump into the race. Carmouche enjoyed a good reputation throughout the community– and he handled both the legal and public relations/political aspects of this important job in a professional, non-controversial fashion.Paul_Carmouche_DA

It’s a long time to qualifying—September 8 –10; the primary election is October 24. Viable candidates will need to put campaign organizations together no later than early July along with serious fund-raising efforts– if not sooner. Those candidates waiting for Judge Stewart to make up his mind—or at least to publicly announce his intentions—should get on with their campaigns. Aggressive candidates can take advantage of the ethical/financial limbo that Judge James must deal with, and can turn the focus away from him to their own candidacy.

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