Two veteran attorneys, one a former prosecutor and another a longtime solo practitioner, are vying for the vacant seat on the 20th Judicial District Court bench.

Betsy Jones, of Clinton, and Sydney Picou Walker, of St. Francisville, both Democrats, want to replace Judge George “Hal” Ware Jr., who decided not to seek re-election this year after almost two decades on the bench. His term expires on Dec. 31.

The 20th JDC includes both East and West Feliciana parishes.

A political newcomer, Jones is no stranger to the Felicianas’ courthouses. While maintaining a private law practice since 1994, she also served as an assistant district attorney from 2003 until August. She was a law clerk for a 20th JDC judge for a year prior to that.

Jones said her extensive experience as a prosecutor would be an asset if elected judge. She said she has served as lead counsel in “more than 800” judge trials and “15 or more” jury trials.

Jones pledged to continue Ware’s “legacy of hard work,” seek restitution for crime victims, bring school groups into the courtroom to learn about the judicial system and mentor young people.

“I’ll have a courtroom that opens early and stays open late, and I’ll show no mercy to violent offenders,” she said.

Picou Walker comes from a family of attorneys. She has been practicing law since 1986.

“As a judge, I will address each case individually based on the specific facts of the case and without preconceived notions or ideology,” said Picou Walker of her platform. She pledged to move cases expeditiously, research the law for each case and not allow her docket to “stagnate.”

She has worked extensively in private practices, including her own firm as a sole practitioner. She also has served as an assistant attorney general for Louisiana under Attorney General Richard Ieyoub.

Picou Walker said she has done both criminal and civil work. Her criminal experience was as a defense attorney, and she’s represented both plaintiffs and defendants in civil lawsuits. She has been lead counsel in “countless” trials, she said, practicing in 26 other parishes besides the Felicianas.

Picou Walker has held elective office once before, winning the District 1 seat for the West Feliciana Police Jury in 1987. She served four years and was president of the Police Jury during that time. She said she chose not to seek re-election.