Four of the 16 candidates who applied to become the city-parish’s top lawyer will be interviewed for the job, an East Baton Rouge Parish committee decided Monday.
The four lawyers who will interview for the East Baton Rouge Parish attorney job are Michael Adams, principal of Regional Receivership Group LLC; interim Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson; Joell Keller, vice president of compliance and senior counsel for the Edgen Murray Corporation; and Baton Rouge City Court Administrator Lon Norris.
The committee members, who include some Metro Council members and people representing the legal community, plan to interview the top four candidates on April 16.
Among the necessary qualifications for the job are 10 years of legal experience, one year in a supervisor role and the ability to work full time. Committee members also said they preferred applicants to have two years of governmental experience.
After the interviews, the committee will suggest its three favorites to the Metro Council. The Metro Council will make the final decision on who becomes the face of the city-parish’s legal representation.
The council fired previous Parish Attorney Mary Roper in September, saying it lost confidence in her ability to run the Parish Attorney’s Office. Since then, Roper has been in ongoing legal battles with the city-parish.
Her former employee, Batson, slid into the parish attorney role in the interim, though Batson will have to prove in her interview that she is willing to work full time if she secures the permanent job. Batson has worked for the city-parish since 1988, but she is classified as a part-time employee because she is retired.
Despite her retirement status, she wrote in her cover letter, “I do work full time and intend to continue to do so should I be selected as Parish Attorney.” Committee members said Monday that they were still unclear on whether Batson could be considered a full-time employee — who by definition works 30 hours a week or more for the city-parish — but they unanimously voted that Batson was qualified for the job.
Committee members said they will try to pinpoint the specifics of her retirement status during her interview.
Batson’s competition includes one other government insider and two outsiders.
Norris has been the Baton Rouge City Court’s clerk of court and administrator since 2002 and formerly worked as assistant city prosecutor and special assistant attorney general.
“I consider this position as an opportunity to continue my service to City Parish Government,” Norris wrote in his cover letter. “… I have dedicated my professional and personal time and efforts in service to the local community and government.”
Adams and Keller both have spent most of their law careers outside of the government sector.
Adams is a partner at Decuir, Clark and Adams LLP and previously worked for the state’s Department of Insurance, Louisiana’s Department of Justice and as an assistant to the city prosecutor in Baker.
“I have had a unique career not only representing small businesses but also some of the largest corporations in the world,” he wrote in his cover letter. “… I see the parish attorney position as an opportunity to serve our great city.”
Keller has the most uncommon background of the remaining candidates, previously working as an environmental scientist and counsel for Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. She also is a former partner at Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson LLP.
“I believe that my 20-plus years of regulatory, administrative law and litigation practice will be a tremendous asset to the parish legal team,” she wrote in her cover letter.