Incumbents ruled the day Tuesday in East Baton Rouge Parish’s judicial races as all six 19th Judicial District Court judges on the primary ballot retained their seats, but Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Stewart Richey lost hers to former prosecutor Adam Haney while state Rep. Hunter Greene upset Family Court Judge Annette Lassalle.
In complete but unofficial returns, 19th JDC Judges Richard Anderson, Mike Caldwell, Mike Erwin, Todd Hernandez, Bonnie Jackson and Trudy White turned back their respective challengers.
Meanwhile, longtime Southern University Law Center professor Cleveland Coon, a Democrat, and Republican lawyer and former prosecutor Beau Higginbotham advanced to a Dec. 6 runoff to replace the retiring 19th JDC Judge Kay Bates, whose term expires Dec. 31.
In the other East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court race on the ballot, incumbent Pamela Taylor Johnson easily defeated fellow Democrat Gail Adkins Grover.
Anderson, Caldwell, Erwin, Hernandez, Jackson and White had not been challenged since their initial elections.
Erwin, the 19th JDC’s most senior judge, was first elected in 1990. Jackson won her first election in 1992, Anderson and Caldwell in 1996, Hernandez in 2001, and White in 2008.
The races involving Caldwell, a Republican, and White, a Democrat, were by far the most contentious of the 19th JDC elections.
White’s Democratic opponents — state Rep. Alfred Williams and lawyer Gideon Carter III, both of Baton Rouge — blasted the sitting judge for switching her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and back to Democrat, and for appearing in a video with a man in orange prison clothes promoting her candidacy inside a courtroom. White countered those attacks by emphasizing her allegiance to the Democratic Party, and said she never authorized the release of the video with comedian Jomo Jenkins.
Four days before the primary, a Louisiana Supreme Court-appointed oversight committee found that Williams violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct by falsely portraying in a campaign mailer that White is a Republican. Williams disputed that finding.
Caldwell, a Republican, was tested by trial lawyer Randy Piedrahita, who moved from the Democratic Party to the GOP in 2012. Caldwell cited his civil caseload experience on the bench, while Piedrahita had pledged to handle both civil and criminal matters if elected.
Piedrahita also took Caldwell to task for not sending former LSU, McNeese State and Miami Dolphins running back Cecil “The Diesel” Collins back to prison earlier this year for violating his probation in a Baton Rouge case in which he was accused of forcing his way into the Nicholson Drive apartments of two women in 1998 and fondling them. While on probation, Collins sneaked into his neighbors’ apartment in Miami in 1999 and was convicted of burglary. He served more than 13 years in a Florida prison and was released last year and sent back to Louisiana to consider a possible probation violation in this area.
East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors in 2013 pushed to have Collins sent back to jail, but Caldwell instead put him on probation for an extra three years. The judge explained during the campaign that returning Collins to prison “would just be exacting a pound of flesh at the expense of taypayers” who pay for incarceration.
The 64-year-old Erwin, a Democrat, beat Republican Metro Councilman Trae Welch to earn a fifth term on the 19th JDC bench. Erwin, of Baton Rouge, had touted his judicial experience over the 42-year-old Welch, of Zachary, son of state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Jewel “Duke” Welch and former Metro Councilwoman Roxson Welch.
Trae Welch, a lawyer, Zachary city prosecutor and chairman of the Greater Baton Rouge Airport Commission, insisted he was ready to hit the ground running if elected. Welch was a Democrat until after the 2012 council election.
Jackson turned back fellow Democrats Tiffany Foxworth and Nina S. Hunter to return to the bench. Jackson, who presided over the high-profile first-degree murder cases of serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis and Trucko Stampley, campaigned on her reputation as being respected, fair and proven. This was the latest in a string of losses for Foxworth, who lost in a runoff to state Rep. Ted James in 2011 for the then newly created 101st District legislative seat. She also unsuccessfully challenged former Metro Councilman Mike Walker in 2008 and Baton Rouge City Court Judge Suzan Ponder in 2012. Hunter, a political newcomer, worked as a lawyer for the state Department of Revenue for more than eight years before leaving in January to pursue a private practice.
Anderson, a Republican who presided over the first-degree murder case of serial killer Derrick Todd Lee, defeated civil attorney and adjunct LSU professor Joyce Plummer, a Democrat. Anderson portrayed himself as a fair judge who is tough on career criminals and repeat offenders. Plummer promised to seek alternatives to jail time for nonviolent first-time offenders, but said repeat offenders would face stiff consequences.
Hernandez, a Republican, held off veteran Democratic public defender Colette Greggs, the daughter of the late legendary Southern University Band Director Isaac Greggs. Hernandez served as a criminal judge from 2001 to 2008, presiding over the first-degree murder case of mass murderer Anthony Bell along the way, before taking over a civil case docket. Greggs has represented East Baton Rouge’s indigent defendants for eight years and said she has seen the problems facing the community and believed she could help.
Coon and Higginbotham were the top two vote getters in the race to replace Bates, who was first elected in 1996. Republican lawyers Miike Davis, Chris Oetjens and Jamie Morain Zanovec did not make the runoff.
Nineteenth JDC Judges Janice Clark, Lou Daniel, Wilson Fields, Don Johnson, Tim Kelley, Tony Marabella, Chip Moore and William Morvant were re-elected without opposition in August.