Even though the elections for local judges are almost a year away (November 4, 2014), Caddo lawyers are lining up to run for judgeships for both district and city judgeships. Outside the legal community, few if any local voters are concerned, — having just endured a lifeless judicial campaign in Caddo Parish that had a record low voter turnout. And in reality, judicial campaigns rarely invoke much public interest outside family, friends and the barristers who are bombarded with requests to donate to the campaigns.
Once elected, judges have virtual kingship; rarely are incumbents challenged, much less defeated. Thus, in most instances, a judicial election is for a well paid, lifetime job with very good benefits and social status. Whether deserved or not, the “judge” title opens doors and bestows certain privileges that many seek, and obviously enjoy. Be that as it may, here is the current lineup of known prospects to join the black robe club.
Caddo District Judge Scott Crichton is seeking election to the Louisiana Supreme Court; thus his seat on the Caddo bench will be open. Don Weir Jr. and Charles Tutt have formally announced they will run for this judgeship. Jason Waltman has indicated he will also be a candidate. This judicial district encompasses southeast Shreveport and Cedar Grove; it is doubtful any other candidate will jump into this fray.
Judge Roy Brun will resign his Caddo district judgeship next year to become the Caddo Court administrator on February 1st. Thus his seat will be on the November general election ballot. Erin Lee Waddell Garrett, the daughter of Caddo Chief Judge Bobby Waddell, has announced her intentions to seek this judgeship. Several other candidates are also considering this election including Shreveport attorney Mary Winchell and Vivian attorney Doug Dominick. This district encompasses Southern Hills/southwest Shreveport, part of Cross Lake area and most of north Caddo Parish.
Caddo District Judge Leon Emmanuel retires at the end of this year, and his seat will also be on the 2014 general election ballot. Karelia Stewart, a Caddo assistant district attorney, jumped in this race first; she is the daughter of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Carl Stewart and the niece of Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Stewart. Alex Washington, who has served as judge pro term in Shreveport City Court while maintaining a private practice, has also announced he will seek this seat. City Prosecutor Terrell Miles may also be a candidate for this minority judicial district.
Shreveport City Court Chief Judge Bill Kelly will retire after completing his current term and thus the 2014 general election will have his seat on the ballot. Caddo assistant district attorney Brian Barber is an active, but unannounced, candidate for this job. It is anticipated that Barber will have one or more opponents. Incumbent city Judges Sheva Sims and Pam Lattier may also have opponents in their re-election races.
Many barristers have questioned the relative young age and lack of experience of both Karelia Stewart and Erin Lee Waddell Garrett. Candidates for district judge must have been admitted to practice law in Louisiana for a minimum of eight (8) years on the day of the general election. Stewart will satisfy this requirement by approximately eight month, and Garrett by approximately one month. Shreveport City judges must have five (5) years admission to the Louisiana Bar to qualify.
More names will obviously surface for all of the above races between now and qualifying in August of next year. Serious candidates will need to have the basic ground work started by spring of 2014 to successfully compete in this election. The court house halls are full of chatter over candidates, and its is likely that many judicial races will be hotly contested next year, — which is a good thing.