Deafening Silence in Race for the Bench

by John Settle
Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle

In what is probably a major surprise to voters in Caddo, Red River and DeSoto parishes, there will be a judge’s race on the November 6 ballot. Charles Peatross resigned from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in January of this year due to health reasons, and the Louisiana Supreme Court has placed this election on the November ballot. Qualifying will be August 15-17 for this position, as well as all other November races.

Unlike the judicial race in Bossier/Webster parishes to fill the seat of retired Judge Bruce Bolin, public interest by prospective candidates has been virtually non-existent. There have been no announcements, no letters seeking support/donations, no campaign signs, nor any public statements of interest. In summary, the silence on this judicial election has been deafening.

The SupremesThe judicial district is a large sprawling one that encompasses 113 precincts in Caddo Parish and all of Red River and DeSoto Parishes; the entire district has a total of 182 precincts. In Caddo, the district goes from Cross Lake through the center of Shreveport to the south, and includes Stoner Hill, Broadmoor, University Terrace, Southern Hills and a large portion of West Shreveport.

The district has (as of June 29, 2011) 113,776 registered voters, broken down as follows: 79,509 whites; 29,576 blacks; and 4,691 others. Party wise, the district has 45,978 Democrats, 41,224 Republicans and 26,574 other party voters.

Earlier this year, the name that popped up most office in the courthouse halls was that of Caddo District Judge Jeanette Garrett. First elected in 2002, Garrett has sat on criminal, civil, and domestic benches and has established a reputation as a hard working, demanding jurist. She has recently decided not to run for this seat. It is anticipated that she will be a candidate for that court at a later date; Judge Gay Gaskins has indicated she will most likely retire in the not too distant future.

Garrett’s decision should certainly be good news to Judge Frances Pitman, who reportedly is interested in running for this seat. Judge Francis ran uncontested for her judgeship in 2008, and she has served on the domestic bench during her tenure on the bench. Judge Frances and her husband, Judge Mike Pitman, are the first ever (and only) wife-husband judicial team in Louisiana. (Some wags believe that they both want to serve on the Second Circuit bench).

Another name that has been quietly circulated around the Caddo Courthouse for this judicial opening is that of Caddo Judge Craig Marcotte. Marcotte won his seat on the bench in a run-off election in 2008. Marcotte sits on the drug court which is generally considered to be the least desirable judicial seat. He was a business/insurance defense trial counsel, and he has been chaffing to handle civil case. (The Court of Appeals hears appeals from all district court cases –civil, criminal, and domestic).

As always, money to fund a judicial campaign will be a major factor in this election. Pitman reportedly has family resources that can underwrite a substantial election bid; Marcotte’s ability to raise sufficient finances to run a respectable race is a question that is yet to be answered. What is known is that this election will leave a vacancy on the Caddo bench, and a line of interested attorneys will surface once qualifying ends next month.