Its rare that 2 sitting judges square off against each other for another judicial seat—but that is the case in the March 5 special election to fill the unexpired term of former Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James E. Stewart who resigned for his successful run for Caddo District Attorney. Caddo Juvenile Judge Shonda Stone, Shreveport City Court Judge Sheva Sims and Shreveport attorney Trina Chu are vying for this seat that has 9 years remaining in the term.
This judicial district is a minority sub district in Shreveport that encompasses most black neighborhoods with the exception of Stoner Hill. The district also includes a few white voter precincts located in southeast Shreveport around Betty Virginia Park. Stone and Sims are the obvious favorites as sitting judges and as black candidates; Chu is white.
Judicial campaigns are strictly regulated by the Judicial Canons of Ethics which basically only allow candidates to talk about credentials. In other words they can not point out distinctions between themselves or call out their opponents. Thus campaign materials and publicity rarely provide voters with any real criteria for making an informed decision.
To those in the “know”, i.e. court personnel, attorneys, and judges, this choice is a “no brainer”—Stone is clearly the best candidate for this position for many reasons. Stone has distinguished herself on the Caddo Juvenile bench, and is known to be a team player with all concerned in the juvenile justice system. She has a well deserved reputation for hard work on the bench, community organizations and the Louisiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
Stone has a calm effective judicial temperament that serves her well on the bench and in the community. Stone is being hard-pressed by Sims, who has run many contested campaigns for the Shreveport City Council (unsuccessfully) and for City judge. Sims is known to be a “no holds barred” campaigner and reportedly she is spending many hours off the Shreveport city bench to campaign. Sims has a record of being tardy to court both as a practicing attorney and as judge; while on the Shreveport bench she often suspended court to pick up her children from school. Most telling on her judicial performance is the fact that Sims was suspended from the bench for 30 days by the Louisiana Supreme Court for her actions against a Shreveport city prosecutor.
As in all elections voter turnout is crucial and this will especially be the case on March 5. Also on the ballot are the Caddo Democrat and Republican Party Executive Committees as well as the state central committees for both parties which may draw some additional voter interest. Chu will probably draw a few votes, but hopefully not enough to put this election into a runoff. Stone will certainly be missed from the Caddo Juvenile Court if elected, but her presence on the Second Circuit Court will far outweigh that loss considering the negative impact of a Sim’s victory. As many lawyers have commented, Sims can do much less damage to the judicial system as a city judge than as appellate judge.