Kowtow Games of Shreveport City Judges

by John Settle
Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle

In what can only be described as a backroom shenanigan by Shreveport City Court Judges Pam Lattier and Sheva Sims, the vacancy of Shreveport City Clerk  may now be filled; a public announcement had not been made by the 5pm Wednesday press deadline.  As part of the deal brokered with Chief Judge Bill Kelly, a new court administrator position has been created and may also have been selected.  To put it bluntly, the news slowly seeping out about the delayed selection process to replace long time Shreveport City Clerk Virginia Hester is disheartening at best, –and perhaps illegal at worst.

O’ Mighty One, We will serve you!

The Shreveport City Judges, –Bill Kelly, Lee Irwin, Pammela Lattier and Sheva Sims, –recently interviewed four from the field of twenty-four candidates for the clerk’s position.  The final four were Shreveport Chief Prosecutor Terrell Myles (42), retired Federal Clerk of Court Robert Shemwell (70), frequent pro tem judge Doug White (63) and thirty year clerk’s office veteran Marilyn Smith.  Many attorneys who regularly practice in that Court had considered Myles to be the front runner due to his great working relationship with attorneys and court personnel, along with his even handed temperament and good judgment.

Court watchers were skeptical of Lattier and Sims’s objectivity in the selection process; both had previously expressed displeasure with Myles (and for that matter, the City Prosecutor’s Office) over his failure to kowtow* to their idiosyncrasies and whims.  Lattier and Myles had squared off in the race for the judgeship that Lattier handily won, –albeit many speculated that she still had ill feelings for Myles.

Sims, who has become the Barbara Norton of Shreveport politics, has never been known for consistent behavior or rationale judgment.  Since her election to the bench last fall, her track record for tardiness has continued and her dismissal of all criminal cases in the midst of a temper tantrum is reflective of her “judicial wisdom.”

Although no official announcement has been made, evidently Shemwell has been selected as the court’s clerk; Judge Kelly has quietly introduced Shemwell to Court personnel as their new boss.  Evidently, the prize for Lattier and Sims in this political deal is the appointment of Smith as court administrator. (For those who keep score, Shemwell is white  and Smith is black.  Kelly and Irwin are white and Lattier and Sims are black).

The hitch in this Lattier/Sims trade out is whether or not the court administrator position can be filled without proper advertisement.  Some suspect that Smith may get the job, –with a different title and a pay raise –to obviate this “technicality.”  Without a satisfactory resolution for all the players involved, –the Shreveport City Judges could well find themselves as defendants in a judicial challenge to the selection of a court administrator by a judicial fiat.

As this political drama plays out, the reality of the power and independence of elected judges could not be more obvious, –and simultaneously, more open to public review and criticism.  Both Lattier and Sims will probably have opposition in their re-election bids; unlike in days past where the black robe equated to a lifetime public paycheck, both may find rough sledding in their next campaign fueled in part by their roles in this sad story.

And depending on the final outcome of “Clerkgate,” Kelly may be pressured to now punch his retirement ticket and go to the house.  Kelly had earlier indicated he would not retire soon, –citing the need for leadership in the time of court transition (translation: arrival of Queen Sheva to the bench) and his desire to bring the court system more into the electronic age.  His “leadership” in what may soon become a selection fiasco will likely tarnish an otherwise commendable career on the Shreveport City Court bench.

How all this plays out is a story to yet be told. The AWOL status of Lattier and Sims this week may well have provided an opportunity for reflection on decisions not publicly announced, –as well as examination of other options to satisfy the egos and political ambitions of the Shreveport Judges.  If nothing else, the black robes should now realize that the day of reckoning for their actions has suddenly arrived, –and for those wishing to return to the bench, it will be a political constant to be dealt with in the future.

kowtow*–verb (used without object) 1.to act in an obsequious manner; show servile deference. 2.to touch the forehead to the ground while kneeling, as an act of worship, reverence, apology, etc., especially in former Chinese custom.