2014 Caddo Judicial Races Start to Heat Up

Shreveport Attorney John Settle
by John Settle

Despite the fact there is a Caddo judicial election this fall, the real courthouse chatter over judge races is focused on next year’s election. The current race between Mike Miller and Brady O’Callaghen is, to date, a real yawner, – – with the exception of a possible public ethics violation by the Caddo DA’s staff. Calls were made last week from the appeals division of D.A. Charles Scott’s office urging attorneys to attend a fund raiser for Caddo Assistant District Attorney O’Callaghen.

Attorney Mike Miller
Attorney Mike Miller

Last week Caddo Judge Leon Emmanuel surprised the courthouse crowd by announcing his early retirement, – – effective December 31 of this year. Emmanuel had been expected to not seek re-election when his term ended next year. A rumored Judiciary Commission hearing reported scheduled for next spring could have been the linchpin factor in Emmanuel’s decision to hang up his black robe a year early.

Emmanuel’s retirement date means that a special election for his replacement will not be called, – – there must be more than 12 months in an expired term to trigger a special election. (Emmanuel’s term ends December 31, 2014). This election is the general primary on November 4, with the expected run off election on December 6.

Caddo Assistant District Attorney Brady OCallaghan
Caddo Assistant District Attorney Brady OCallaghan

The field of possible candidates for this minority judicial district include Karelia Stewart, Alex Washington and Ron Stamps. Candidates are not required to live within the district, but must be Caddo residents. It is expected that the Louisiana Supreme Court will appoint Judge Joe Bleick of Ruston to serve out Emmanuel’s term; he has been appointed to complete the unexpired terms of Judge Bruce Bolin, Judge Francis Pitman and now Judge Jeanette Garrett.

Judge Scott Crichton - Stepping up!
Judge Scott Crichton – Stepping up!

Names keep popping up to fill Judge Scott Crichton’s judgeship on the Caddo bench; Crichton will be a candidate for the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2014 elections. Don Weir, Jr. is the latest barrister to announce his intent to seek this seat. Jason Waltman has also stated he will run, and there is little doubt that Erin Lee Waddell- Garrett, daughter of Caddo Chief Judge Bobby Waddell, will also seek this seat.

Most barristers discount the prospects of Shreveport City Judge Lee Irvin actually running for the Caddo bench despite his expressed interest in moving from Murphy Street to Texas Street. It is very doubtful Irvin will be opposed for re-election, and he is in line to be Chief Judge of Shreveport City Court. If Irvin ran for the Caddo slot and lost, he would go to the house, i.e., lose his judgeship.

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

Additionally, Irvin is a former law partner of Judge Bobby Waddell and some belief he may just be a stalking horse to discourage candidates from opposing Erin Lee’s judicial bid. Interestingly enough, the pay for the district and city judges is practically the same, if not equal, – – so a move from one court to the next provides more of an elevation in “prestige” not salary.

The 2014 Shreveport City Court elections could result in as many as four new judges if Irvin seeks the district court bench. Chief Judge Bill Kelley is retiring; Brian Barber, an unannounced but a definite candidate, will probably draw one or two opponents for this seat. A vacancy in Irvin’s spot would invite a gang of judicial wantabes, and it is likely that both incumbent Judge Pam Lattier and Judge Sheva Sims will each have an opponent.

Some barristers have questioned if Stewart and Waddell-Garrett will have the minimum years of practice to run for a judgeship. Louisiana law requires eight (8) years of practice before the date of the general election (December 6, 2014). Stewart was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in April of 2006, and Waddell-Garrett in October of 2006; thus both do qualify, barely, to run in 2014 for judge.

More names will likely surface for these spots and especially for Shreveport City Court, since many attorneys believe this post is more desirable than the rigors of the district court bench. Additionally, the cost of a city judgeship race is usually substantially less than a district court race. More news on these races will be reported as it develops, – – along with the other 2014 elections which are starting earlier than usual in this election cycle.