Private attorney and city hearing officer Desiree Cook-Calvin scored a solid victory Saturday over former interim city councilman Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet in a runoff to replace embattled Judge Yolanda King for the Section E seat in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court.
With all precincts reporting, Cook-Calvin won with 57 percent of the vote over Charbonnet for one of five seats on the court.
Cook-Calvin, 45, who led the primary voting with 28 percent in a field of six, will take public office for the first time after losing a pair of campaigns for state representative in 2005 and 2007. Charbonnet, 60, also was making a bid for his first elected seat, after failing in a bid for Traffic Court judge in 2011 and this year for an at-large City Council seat.
Cook-Calvin said she was drawn to the Juvenile Court post from “working with women who suffered losses to violence.” Active in the Household of Faith Worship Church, she hopes to tap churches, community groups and schools to tackle high expulsion rates in the city.
She takes over a seat on a court that has faced criticism for having too many judges for a caseload that has been sharply reduced over several years. Legislation backed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and signed this year by Gov. Bobby Jindal, slates the removal of two of the six judgeships over time.
One of those judgeships goes away at year’s end with the retirement of Judge Lawrence Lagarde Jr. But a legal gambit by Landrieu to eliminate the second seat - the one that Cook-Calvin just won - was rejected.
Charbonnet, a former city attorney in the Dutch Morial administration, had hoped to parlay his experience and name recognition after having served as interim city councilman for the District E seat that went vacant when disgraced councilman Jon Johnson abruptly resigned in 2012 to face federal charges that would land him in prison. Charbonnet took 20 percent of the primary vote.
King, who ran third in the primary, still faces criminal charges for allegedly lying about living in New Orleans when she qualified for the office last year before winning in a runoff. The Louisiana Supreme Court barred her in May from taking the bench pending the resolution of her criminal case, leaving her cases for other Juvenile Court judges to handle.
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