NEW IBERIA — The career path for Bofill Duhé, new district attorney for the 16th Judicial District, wasn’t a typical one. He attended law school only after his banking career hit a roadblock, and then he intended to become a bank lawyer.
But on Monday, before an audience of at least 500 that crowded into a parish courtroom and spilled into a hall, Duhé received the oath of office for his new job.
Duhé was joined by his wife, Lisa, and their three children, along with past 16th Judicial District attorneys — Bernie Boudreaux from 1981 until 2000 and Phil Haney from 2000 until 2014.
Duhé, 52, who goes by the nickname “Bo,” walked into the District Attorney’s Office in August when no other candidate emerged to run in an election to succeed Haney.
“I’m convinced God put me in this place,” Duhé said. “You have to remember where you came from and to stay humble.”
Duhé joined the District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor in 1993 after Boudreaux offered him a job. Only a few years out of law school, Duhé said he accepted Boudreaux’s offer.
“It paid more than a law clerk, so I jumped on it quickly,” said Duhé, who worked his way up to major crimes prosecutor.
On Monday, Haney swore in Duhé, who will oversee criminal prosecutions in Iberia, St. Mary and St. Martin parishes, which make up the three-parish 16th Judicial District .
Duhé swore in his first assistant, Robert Vines, then swore in 19 of the assistant district attorneys who prosecute criminal cases in the district. Included in those were St. Mary Parish chief prosecutor Anthony Saleme Jr. and St. Martin Parish chief prosecutor Chester Cedars. The office employs 27 prosecutors, along with investigators and administrative staff.
“We are being led into the future by a man of even temperament,” Vines said.
Duhé comes from legal stock. His father, John Duhé, was a 16th District judge before being appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a federal judge in 1984 for the Western District of Louisiana. In 1988, Reagan tapped the elder Duhé to sit on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
As a young man, it didn’t look like Bo Duhé would follow his father into law. Duhé told The Advocate last year that in 1984 he received a bachelor’s degree in business from what was then the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette. He worked in the savings and loan industry until that sector of the banking industry hit hard times in 1989. The debt crisis and bank liquidations prompted Duhé to enroll in Tulane Law School, where his father had studied and graduated.
Even then, Duhé intended to stay in the business by becoming a banking attorney and helping the savings and loan industry work out the bad loans.
But it was not a career trajectory that held. In 1991, he became a law clerk for 16th District Judge Robert Fleming. In 1993, Haney, who was first assistant for Boudreaux, talked the district attorney into hiring Duhé.
In the last 21 years, Duhé worked his way up, at first prosecuting minor offenders then eventually major crimes.
The 500-plus attendees who on Monday crowded into Judge Keith Comeaux’s courtroom included Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Iberia Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero and Diocese of Lafayette Monsignor Richard Greene.