The candidates in the Baker City Court judge’s race both say their goal is to ensure the court is operating efficiently — whether by instituting more protocols, lowering fees or continuing to tweak it with small changes — in the small, tightly knit city north of Baton Rouge.
Kirk Williams, the incumbent, said he delivered on his promise to make the court more efficient since being elected six years ago. He said, as a judge, he emphasizes rehabilitation instead of incarceration for the defendants who appear before him. He also checked off a list of administrative achievements he has accomplished such as hiring more student workers from LSU and Baton Rouge Community College and adding video monitors to ensure clerks are being productive.
But his challenger, City Atorney Ken Fabre, said Williams has raised too many court fees and has not been present enough in the community.
“Anybody in any leadership has a responsibility to give back that way — you give time to people; you talk to them,” Fabre said.
The election is set for Nov. 4, while early voting for the primary starts Tuesday and ends Oct. 28.
Williams said he is confident about his record and has built his campaign around his achievements during his first term in office. A graduate of the Baker school system before leaving Louisiana for law school at the University of Virginia, Williams said Baker is his home.
“Why wouldn’t I be running for re-election?” Williams asked. “Six years ago, I promised change. I delivered on that promise.”
Williams hopes to continue tweaking the way City Court runs and cutting down on wasted time. During his tenure as judge, he said he cut the amount of time between arraignments and trials from six months to two months.
This is the third time the former defense and personal injury attorney, who had a private practice in Baker, has run for the City Court judge’s seat. He was unsuccessful in his first bid and won the second time around.
Fabre believes one of the biggest problems with the court under Williams is a lack of compassion and fairness. The Baker City Court primarily oversees traffic and misdemeanors, and Fabre said the people who come in are mostly blue-collar workers.
“If a person doesn’t have a job, but they show up for a traffic ticket, why would I have them leave my court with several hundred dollars of fines?” Fabre asked.
He wants to reduce probation fees and bench warrant fees, and Fabre also wants to forge a better relationship with law enforcement by offering training classes to police officers in various aspects of the law. Fabre said strengthening his relationship with law enforcement can reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs in Baker.
Fabre said he does not use convictions to determine success but instead said he celebrates every time the court process is completed and justice has been served. Those beliefs stem from his time as a captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where he worked in Washington, D.C.
If elected, this will be the first time Fabre steps up to the judge’s bench, though he has been a city prosecutor and assistant district attorney in the 18th Judicial District Court, which includes Iberville, West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes.
Both Williams and Fabre said their community connections make them leaders.
Williams said he sponsors children’s athletic programs and bands, and volunteers as the announcer for Baker High School’s football games. In addition, he said, he enjoys speaking at youth groups and churches.
Fabre said he spends about half of his time being a servant leader in the community. He is the founder of People of Potential and Purpose in Christ, a nonprofit group that steers people toward leadership and God.