Candidates Emerge in Court of Appeals Race

by John Settle
Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle

Just two weeks ago silence was the word on the upcoming Court of Appeals election to replace Charles Peatross who retired in January. And now with qualifying for this seat coming up August 15-17, the field suddenly has three viable candidates.

Caddo District Judge Frances J. Pitman has long been mentioned as a candidate. Despite no formal announcement, bus stop bench ads have recently sprouted in prominent locations throughout the district. Judge Frances, who serves as a domestic judge, has started making campaign stops at various events accompanied by her brother, attorney Marshall Jones, Jr.

In what was somewhat of a surprise to courthouse observers, Caddo Juvenile Judge David N. Matlock has just made it known that he may also be a candidate. Matlock, who is the Chief Juvenile Judge, was first elected to the juvenile bench in 1995.

Caddo District Judge Craig Marcotte has just confirmed that he will enter this race as well. Marcotte, who presides over the Caddo Drug Court, had early on announced his intention to run and the entry of Matlock into the race has not changed his decision.

Matlock’s entry into the race will have many ripples, and one of the most obvious is the fact that there is no guaranteed vacancy upcoming on the Caddo bench. When only Marcotte and Pitman were considering this race, many judicial wantabes were assessing a run for the Caddo bench. Now if Matlock wins the election there will be no vacancy on the Caddo bench, but a juvenile court seat will open up.

A race between Marcotte, Matlock and Pitman will be interesting from several perspectives. All are Republican. Matlock has the experience edge hands down; he has worn a black robe for almost 17 years compared to less than 4 years for Marcotte and Judge Frances. Matlock and Pitman are dyed in the wool of conservatives; Marcotte is considered to be more liberal. Marcote had a tough election in 2008 that he won in a runoff; Pitman was unopposed in 2008. Matlock won his election bid handily, and has been unopposed since that victory.

A successful candidate must plan for two totally different elections. The primary will be November 6th, the day of the Presidential election. Record numbers of Republicans and Democrats, especially black Democrats, are expected to be at the polls. A runoff election on December 8th will only see a pitiful handful of voters, who will be predominately Republican.

The good news is that voters in this judicial district, which encompasses a large part of Caddo Parish and all of DeSoto and Red River Parishes, will have discernable choices. Judge elections are limited by judicial ethics –no calling out of opponents, etc., -and generally are not of frontburner interest to voters. Nonetheless, this election is important and it will be followed as it unfolds.