Voters in parts of West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes on Saturday will be asked to pick a new district court judge.
They will decide between Elizabeth Engolio, an assistant district attorney working in the 18th Judicial District Court, and Plaquemine-based lawyer Joseph Dupont.
Both are Democrats with deep roots in the 18th JDC, which not only spans West Baton Rouge and Iberville, but also Pointe Coupee Parish.
Engolio, a 37-year-old attorney and granddaughter of the late district Judge Edward Engolio Sr., said her family’s dedication to public service has prepared her to fill the Division D seat of William Dupont, her opponent’s uncle, who retired last fall after more than a decade on the district court bench.
Joseph Dupont, 47, downplayed his family’s connection to the position, saying he is trying to win voters’ favor on his own accomplishments.
William Dupont retired on Oct. 31 — prompting the special election for a successor to finish his unexpired fifth term.
Retired appellate court Judge Edward “Jimmy” Gaidry was appointed by the state Supreme Court to preside over cases until voters select a new judge.
Joseph Dupont’s uncle, James H. Dupont, served as parish assessor for more than 30 years. And his father, Joseph B. Dupont Sr., was the first Plaquemine City Court judge — a position that Joseph Dupont briefly held on appointment from 2004 to 2005.
The Northwestern State University and Southern University Law School graduate is a partner at his family’s law firm, Dupont, Dupont and Dupont, and he has served as the domestic abuse special prosecutor for Plaquemine City Court during his 18-year career as a lawyer.
He describes himself as independent, principled and qualified.
If elected, Dupont says he wouldn’t be restricted from presiding over many cases due to his current job or family ties to the judicial system — something he said isn’t true of his opponent, a longtime prosecutor.
“I think it’s important that a judge not have any ties to anyone to prevent any outside influence,” Dupont said. “I have an extensive amount of more experience than my opponent does. It takes life experience, as well as legal experience, to understand the consequences of the decisions you’ll make as judge.”
However, Engolio retorted that her opponent’s background in the private sector doesn’t mean he won’t have to recuse himself for some cases in the future.
“Any case a judge has worked on in the past as lawyer they would not be able to work on as a judge,” she said. “But there is no reason, statutorily, I can’t handle any new cases as judge with me having been an assistant DA.”
Engolio has served as an assistant district attorney for 10 years. Before that she ran a civil law practice.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Southern University Law School graduate touted her role as a member of the prosecution team behind the convictions of serial killers Derrick Todd Lee and Sean Gillis.
She also served as lead prosecutor on appeals before the state Supreme Court and 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
Engolio noted she maintains memberships in a plethora of community organizations and civic groups.
“With my community service, that’s something that makes me stand apart,” Engolio said. “And my extensive work in researching and writing through my appellate work has gotten me very versed in the law.”
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