A Baton Rouge criminal judge will face his first challenger after 18 years on the bench in the Nov. 4 election in the race for Division G on the 19th Judicial District Court.
Judge Richard Anderson, a Republican who has held the same seat since 1996, faces civil attorney and adjunct LSU professor Joyce Plummer, a Democrat, in the election.
Anderson said that throughout his years as judge, he has shown that he was fair to all and treated those who came before him with dignity while also taking a tough stance on career criminals and repeat offenders.
“I said in 1996 I would apply the law as written, and that’s what I’ve done,” he said. “This is the only office I’ve run for. This is what I want to do. I’ve made a commitment.”
Plummer has been a civil attorney since 1987 and spent three years as a law professor at Southern University. She said that if elected, she would look for alternatives to jail time for nonviolent first-time offenders, while repeat offenders would face tougher consequences.
“I think being a judge is one of the truest professions imaginable,” Plummer said. “I don’t see it as a job; I see it almost as a position of trust.”
Before becoming a judge, Anderson had a general criminal and civil law practice in Baton Rouge for 15 years. But during his years on the court, he said he has seen the “ins and outs” of the job.
He presided over 462 trials, including 226 jury trials. He pointed to his handling of serial murderer Derrick Todd Lee’s case, which he said posed legal challenges, as a testament to his fairness.
Anderson said his approach to serving as judge also includes protecting public safety and the rights of victims and maintaining a speedy docket. He said he looks for chances to find school or work for first-time offenders who appear in his courtroom and to offer probation when possible in misdemeanor cases.
But when defendants appear before him again, the punishments are harsher, he said.
“I tell these kids the same thing I told (mine) — you can go to work, or you can go to school, but you’re not going to do nothing. The world keeps spinning when you’re sitting on a couch or you’re out there working, and you’ve got to move ahead or you’re falling behind.”
While Anderson has chosen to stick with criminal law over the decades, Plummer’s experience consists of civil law. She has served as lead counsel for fewer than 10 jury trials in civil court. She also served as an ad hoc judge for one day in Baton Rouge City Court. She added that if elected, she would look into whether she would have to preside over criminal cases and said maybe she could hear both.
“You don’t have to have served as a criminal attorney to understand criminal law,” Plummer said. “Law school prepares you for the full gamut of the law.”
But if elected, Plummer likely would face a criminal docket, because it has been the custom in the 19th Judicial District Court to assign criminal cases to the newest judges, because civil dockets are generally handled by the most senior judges — unless for some reason the more senior judges decide to stay with criminal cases.
“I don’t want anyone to think that because I personally chose not to be a criminal defense attorney … it’s because I’m not capable of handling a criminal docket if I’m called upon to do so,” she said.
She studied law at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois. She is an adjunct professor at LSU and teaches life strategies.
Before law school, she worked in education as a researcher for the Board of Trustees for State Colleges and Universities, which is now known as the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System. She also served as general counsel for the Department of Revenue.
Anderson is endorsed by the Republican Party, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the police chiefs of Baker, Zachary and Central, and the union for Baton Rouge police as well as the union for Baton Rouge firefighters.
Plummer is endorsed by the Democratic Party.