Matlock-Pitman Court of Appeals Race: A Closer Look

Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle
by John Settle

If judges were selected on the basis of merit, there’s little doubt that David Matlock would be chosen to fill the empty seat of Charles Peatross on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. As it is, voters in Caddo, DeSoto and Red River Parishes will make the selection between Matlock and Francis Pitman on November 6. How educated the electorate will be on the qualifications of each candidate, much less concerned about the position itself, is an open question.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which is headquartered in Shreveport, hears civil and criminal appeals from 20 district courts in North Louisiana. The court has 9 judges, elected from subdistricts carved out to ensure representation throughout the judicial district. The term of office is 10 years, with no limit on re-election.

With the exception of party affiliation (Republican), Matlock and Pitman have few commonalities; for the discerning voter, the selection should be easy.

Matlock has been a Caddo Juvenile judge for almost as long as Pitman as been an attorney, –and he has served 17 years as a judge compared to less than 4 years for Pitman. Before becoming a judge, Matlock was in private practice for 12 years and he was a partner in 2 Shreveport firms. Pitman’s prior legal experience was as a judicial law clerk and as a Louisiana Assistant Attorney General.

Who really has experience?
What experience really counts?

Matlock has served as a Sunday school teacher, deacon and board member for Broadmoor Baptist Church; Pitman is an active member of Summer Grove Baptist Church.

Matlock has served on the Caddo Parish School board and the boards of directors of the Shreveport Symphony, the Shreveport Bossier Rescue Mission and the Hilman House. He is a past president of the McDade House and currently is a Rutherford House Advisory Board member. Pitman is the President of the Second Circuit Judge Association, and she has served on the LSU-Shreveport Alumni Board and the South Shreveport Business Association Board.

Matlock has been named the Louisiana CASA Judge of the Year, and a Volunteer Youth Justice Shining Star Legal Advocate. In 2008 Matlock received the LSUS Circle of Excellence Award.

Matlock has won both his races for the school board and the Juvenile Court bench. Pitman was defeated by Judge Paul Young in a prior run for the Juvenile Court. She ran unopposed to the Caddo bench; her financial resources discouraged potential competitors for this open seat.

Pitman is running a high dollar, high profile campaign that includes T.V. commercials that began several weeks ago. Pitman has aggressively courted the black vote, and she has received the endorsement of Bishop Larry Brandon of Praise Temple. Pitman’s old Shreveport connections and family money are quite evident throughout her campaign.

In contrast, Matlock has run a low profile, relatively sparse campaign. His blue collar approach to the election is reflective of his modesty, –both personal and financial. Matlock’s supporters, who solicited him to run, have been quiet but active. Matlock probably has the dyed in the wool Republican vote.

Judicial races generally do not excite voters, and this one does not feature the usual “tough on crime/lock up the criminals” message. A large voter turnout is expected for the presidential election and the sprawling election district is quite diverse. Perhaps more than any recent election, the discernment of the electorate will be the key for the successful candidate.