The early political jockeying has begun for judicial hopefuls in New Orleans, with seats coming open in 2016 on the state’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and Criminal District Court benches.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office has set a Nov. 8 primary date for the Section D seat in criminal court, on the same ballot as the presidential election.
Judge Frank Marullo Jr., 75, officially leaves that post this week after four decades, having reluctantly announced his retirement this month while on suspension due to a legal battle over whether he was violating the state’s constitutional age limit for judges.
Open seats at Criminal District Court are rare and coveted; no sitting judge has lost a re-election bid there since the early 1970s.
Bosworth lost to Marullo in a three-way primary last year for the same seat. The other candidate in that race, Marie Williams, did not return a call about whether she is still interested in the seat.
Guillory dropped out of a race last year against incumbent Judge Laurie White for the Section A seat, citing a family illness.
Another soon-to-be casualty of the state’s 70-year age limit is 4th Circuit Judge Max Tobias, whose term runs out at the end of next year. The 4th Circuit hears appeals from the civil and criminal district courts in Orleans Parish and the district courts in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.
Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny has started raising campaign money, and state Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, said he is flirting with the idea of seeking Tobias’ seat.
“I’m thinking about putting a hat in the ring,” said Murray, who is losing his Senate seat because of term limits.
Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Tobias’ seat, though she would not confirm it.
In the meantime, a plum magistrate commissioner’s post is opening up soon in Orleans Parish, as Commissioner Juana Lombard just tendered her resignation to take a job with the incoming John Bel Edwards administration as commissioner of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.
Her magistrate commissioner’s post, one of four at Criminal District Court, will be filled by a vote of the court’s dozen sitting judges. Commissioners are permitted to continue private law practices while serving in the $75,000-a-year job.
Judicial Administrator Rob Kazik said the judges will begin discussing a search for candidates for the post at a meeting Jan. 7, the day before Lombard formally steps down.
Like candidates for other judicial posts, commissioner hopefuls must be lawyers in good standing with at least eight years’ experience and must live in New Orleans.
Brigid Collins, a former Orleans Parish prosecutor, said she is interested in the commissioner’s job. Collins had qualified for a run last year for the Section D judgeship but backed out when Marullo decided to seek re-election.
“I will apply for the position and hope for the best,” she said of the commissioner’s job.
Deputy city attorney in line to step
Kenner Deputy City Attorney Leigh Roussel could be in line for a promotion soon.
When he is sworn in as Jefferson Parish president on Jan. 6 following his election in October, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni intends to seek Parish Council approval to hire Roussel’s boss, Mike Power, as his parish attorney.
Anticipating that the Parish Council will approve of hiring Power, Yenni said the Kenner City Council will be asked to confirm Roussel to be the next city attorney.
The council’s next regular meeting is Jan. 7.
Yenni said Roussel’s formal nomination will come from Mike Sigur, who will serve as City Council president from Jan. 1 through June, making him acting mayor once Yenni steps down. Dominick Impastato is due to take over as council president and acting mayor in July, ahead of a Nov. 8 election to choose a permanent mayor.
Before joining the Kenner City Attorney’s Office when it was created in 2006, Roussel worked for a firm at which Power was a partner. For two decades, that firm handled many of the duties for Kenner that the City Attorney’s Office does now.
“Leigh was molded to be a governmental lawyer,” Yenni said of Roussel. “She has done a great job.”
Compiled by John Simerman and Ramon Antonio Vargas