State District Judge Trudy White is touting her judicial experience and integrity in her re-election bid, but a video showing White standing next to a man in orange prison garb promoting her candidacy inside a courtroom has put the judge on the defensive and has her two challengers questioning her integrity.
“Judge White’s conduct is not only inappropriate, it is unethical, unprofessional and distasteful,” Baton Rouge lawyer Gideon Carter III said. “Judge White should know well that this conduct is not befitting a person in her position as an incumbent judge.”
“I ... found the Jomo Jenkins video offensive and an insult to the court system,” added lawyer and state Rep. Alfred Williams, 63, of Baton Rouge.
White described Jenkins — the man in the video — as a comedian and said she did not authorize the release of the video, which was swiftly removed from the Internet on Oct. 7. The judge declined to say whether the video was recorded inside her 19th Judicial District courtroom.
Carter, 59, said the video “is no joking matter.”
Jenkins states in the video, “I’m down here at the 19th but check this out, I ain’t gonna be here that long ’cause Judge Trudy White is fixin’ to send me back home. So if you want somebody to show you some love, vote for Trudy White on November the 4th.”
White, who holds the Division J seat, then asks people to vote for “number 60” on the ballot.
Carter and Williams said the video sends the wrong message to crime victims and criminal offenders alike.
White, 58, says she stands by her record.
“My record shows that public safety is at the forefront of every case that I handle,” she said.
“I examine the facts of the case, violent or nonviolent, and balance the risk to public safety when sentencing.”
White said she has a passion for the law and people, respects everyone in the judicial process and tries to keep the playing field level so justice can emerge. But she said she’s not perfect.
“I wrestle with making decisions,” she said. “I don’t say I get it right each and every time. I try to get it right. I live and breathe the cases that come through. I labor over trying to get it right. At the end of the day I sleep well.”
White, Carter and Williams are registered Democrats, but Carter and Williams have hammered White for twice changing her political affiliation.
White, a former Baton Rouge City Court judge, was a Democrat when she defeated incumbent state District Judge Curtis Calloway in the fall 2008 election. Two years ago, she ran unsuccessfully for the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal as a Republican.
“I’m back home in the Democratic Party. I’m a proud Democrat,” White said, adding that she was “wrongly advised” that running as a Republican in 2012 would increase her chances of being elected to the 1st Circuit.
“Real Democrats don’t switch,” said Williams, who has the endorsement of the East Baton Rouge Parish Democratic Executive Committee. “You don’t switch just to take advantage of other folks’ votes.”
“I’m not a politician. I’m a lawyer. I’ve represented the interests of real people,” Carter said.
“I believe I’m the most ethical lawyer that you’ll ever meet,” he added.
Both White and Carter have taken aim at Williams’ past troubles.
Williams, who has one year remaining on his House term, was disbarred in 1987 for what the Louisiana Supreme Court called “multiple incidents of neglect of legal matters and conversion of client funds.” The high court said substance abuse was the primary cause of his misconduct.
Williams, who filed for bankruptcy in 1992, was reinstated as a lawyer in 1998 and said he paid more than $55,000 in restitution to the clients he wronged.
“For three years of my life I got involved with cocaine. My life got turned upside down,” he said. “I hurt a lot of people. My family, my friends and my clients.”
Williams, who also battled alcohol abuse, said he has been clean and sober for 28 years and has worked hard to get where he is today.
“It helped make me a better person,” acknowledged the former prosecutor and school board member in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Williams said he believes nonviolent offenders deserve a second chance but repeat violent offenders must be removed from the streets.
Carter, who has been involved in school desegregation cases in East Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, St. Martin, St. John the Baptist, Tangipahoa and Jefferson parishes, contends his three decades of “uninterrupted” practice of the law sets him apart.
“When you consider the alternatives, I’m the logical choice,” he said.
But White points to her 14 years of judicial experience.
“In this case, I really think that experience does count,” she said. “It’s not time to switch.”