Challenger Nakisha Ervin-Knott jumped out to an early lead over incumbent Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Lloyd Medley, leading with nearly 60 percent with more than a third of the votes tallied. Judge Chris Bruno, meanwhile, was leading attorney Ruth Ramsey by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, with 131 of 366 precincts reporting.
In the race for the court’s first domestic section, incumbent Bernadette D’Souza held a commanding early advantage over Taetrece Harrison, leading with 79 percent of the vote. In the second domestic section, Monique Barial was leading a three-way race over Michelle Scott-Bennett and Janet Ahern, though that campaign could be headed to a December runoff. Ahern appeared poised to make the runoff.
What had been a fairly low-key race for the Division D seat gave way to an increasingly heated campaign over the past week. Judge Lloyd Medley, the longtime incumbent, and challenger Nakisha Ervin-Knott both ran negative ads in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election.
Medley’s campaign, in a direct a mailer, published a photograph of Ervin-Knott next to U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican candidate for senator, claiming the Republican Party, by endorsing Ervin-Knott, a Democrat, was “attempting to control local courts.” The Greater New Orleans Republicans suggested the advertisement was hypocritical, issuing a news release that said “the
attack by Judge Lloyd Medley is quite odd, as Judge Medley appeared before both GNOR and the Orleans Parish Republican Party requesting that he receive the Republican endorsement.”
The Ervin-Knott campaign, in radio ads, sought to cast Medley as an inefficient jurist and highlighted an excerpt of a recent interview in which the incumbent said he was running for re-election in part to secure full retirement. Ervin-Knott also suggested Medley may have violated a judicial canon because his financial disclosures showed him serving as his own campaign treasurer. Medley told The New Orleans Advocate that the paperwork had been erroneous, adding he has always abided by the prohibition on judges personally soliciting campaign contributions.
A poll of 566 likely voters, released last week by WIN Partners, a firm that says it has no candidate in the contest, showed the race locked in a “statistical dead heat,” with Ervin-Knott leading by less than a percentage point.
The race for the Division F seat has descended into acrimony over the past several days, with incumbent Judge Chris Bruno accusing challenger Ruth Ramsey of false advertising and violating a temporary restraining order. Judge Lynn Luker granted the restraining order late Friday to halt dissemination of an electronic pamphlet that accused Bruno of trying to close down the historic Algiers Courthouse. Bruno, who was first elected in 2008, called the pamphlet “false and defamatory in nature.”
“Judge Chris Bruno pushed for legislation — the Bruno Bill — to shut down the courthouse and cut off services to the West Bank, and these documents prove it,” the pamphlet said. “Bruno wanted to sacrifice the people of Algiers for his own political gain.”
Kevin Stuart, president of Teddlie Stuart Media Partners, which represents Ramsey, said over the weekend that the campaign had done “extensive research” about Bruno’s alleged involvement in seeking to shutter the Algiers Courthouse “and confirmed the allegations with multiple sources.”
The Bruno campaign accused Ramsey on Tuesday of violating Luker’s order by sending out a news release touting a decision by the state Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee to dismiss a complaint filed by Bruno. The Bruno camp said the decision had no bearing on the restraining order, and the Ramsey campaign responded by sending another email to reporters seeking to clarify that the action by the campaign oversight committee “has no impact on the court ordered injunction.”
Domestic Section 1
The race for Civil District Court’s first domestic section pitted incumbent Bernadette D’Souza against Taetrece Harrison. A New Orleans native, Harrison, 47, campaigned on a promise to modernize the court and offer more resources to families. Harrison says many lawyers have complained about a “lack of control” in D’Souza’s courtroom.
D’Souza, who took the bench in early 2012, sought to highlight her expertise in family law and the efforts she’s made to bring best practices to New Orleans family court, including a pilot mediation program. D’Souza, a 60-year-old native of India, worked as managing attorney of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and as an adjunct professor at Tulane University Law School. Harrison’s law firm, which opened in 2008, specializes in domestic violence cases, foreclosures and visitation rights.
Domestic Section 2
The three-way contest for the CDC’s newly dedicated second domestic section seat could be headed for a Dec. 6 runoff if no candidate ekes a majority of Tuesday’s vote. The seat became dedicated to family law cases after Judge Michael Bagneris stepped down to run for mayor.
Competing for the judgeship are Michelle Scott-Bennett, Monique Barial and Janet Ahern. ?
Scott-Bennett, 43, runs a family law practice and has touted her experience on the bench, having served for several months as an ad hoc domestic commissioner in Jefferson Parish.
Ahern, 53, who began her career as a prosecutor, has been practicing family law for more than two decades years and says she’s handled “every kind of case you can imagine in a family law arena.”
Barial, 43, has touted her years of working as a minute clerk under Bruno in Division F, who handled the domestic docket during the first three years of his term.
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