Two Republicans vying for a seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court said Wednesday that they'd follow the law in their rulings and not the wishes of big-money contributors and interest groups.
James "Jimmy" Genovese, a former district judge in Opelousas who's been a 3rd Circuit jurist since 2004, faces 15th District Judge Marilyn Castle in the Nov. 7 race for the Supreme Court's 3rd District. Voters in the district's eight parishes — Avoyelles, St. Landry, Lafayette, Vermilion, Acadia, Jefferson Davis, Calcasieu and Cameron — will decide which of the two Opelousas-born candidates will sit for a 10-year term and weigh in on Louisiana-wide decisions.
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Both candidates stated their case for being elected at a forum — packed with attorneys — put on by the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation and its executive director, Jan Swift.
Castle and Genovese stressed that court rooms and judges' decisions are no place for left-right politics or the influence of the political money that help get them elected.
"It's a distortion of what our legal system is about," Castle said. "Our obligation, our duty, is to the law."
"I give everybody a level playing field. If you're right, you're right. If you're wrong, you're wrong," Genovese said.
The race to fill a seat on the state's high court is about to start drawing more attention, though, as outside influences weigh in with gobs of money, predicts one longtime Louisiana political consultant.
"It's a big-money race," consultant Bernie Pinsonat said, one that pits big business interests against groups of trial lawyers. And each has a favored candidate, he said, with business backing Castle and trial lawyers backing Genovese.
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Both sides have plenty of money that Pinsonat said is likely to be plowed into negative campaign ads. They've not launched attack ads so far to avoid getting lost amid the noise of other races this season, including the presidential election.
But with summer over and the kids back in school, Pinsonat said, voters now have the time to focus attention on Louisiana's Supreme Court race.
And special interests know that.
"You'll see the PACs start launching (negative ads)," he said.
Pinsonat, who is not affiliated with this year's high court race, said the candidates will spend money accentuating their positives while leaving the negative bashing to the PACs, which are operated outside the reach of the candidates.
Both candidates at Wednesday's forum touted their years on lower courts benches, which they said has prepared them for the state's highest court.
Genovese said that in his 11 years as an 3rd Circuit judge, he's written 500 opinions and knows how to work in judicial panels. Appellate courts rule in groups, as opposed to a district court judge who issues ruling by herself.
"The Supreme Court is no place for on-the-job training," Genovese said.
Castle said she's well prepared to serve on the Supreme Court, where she would put forth rulings that line up with the court's proper role. She described that role as handing down consistent, stable rulings that follow the state constitution and laws passed by the Legislature.
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Castle and Genovese are running to succeed retiring Justice Janet Knoll.
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