Nakisha Ervin-Knott unseated three-term Judge Lloyd Medley on Tuesday, ascending to the bench three years after losing a bid for another seat on the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
Ervin-Knott, a partner at the Gainsburgh, Benjamin, David, Meunier & Warshauer law firm, garnered 58 percent of the vote to Medley’s 42 percent.
While Medley couldn’t hang onto his seat, incumbent Judge Chris Bruno won a second six-year term in Division F, fending off a challenge from last-minute qualifier Ruth Ramsey, the sister of New Orleans City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey. Bruno received 56 percent of the vote to Ramsey’s 44 percent.
In the campaign for family court judge, incumbent Bernadette D’Souza sailed to re-election in a landslide over challenger Taetrece Harrison, capturing 78 percent of the vote.
The second domestic section seat, meanwhile, is headed to a Dec. 6 runoff between Janet Ahern and Monique Barial. Barial received 39 percent and Ahern 34 percent, besting the 26 percent received by Michelle Scott-Bennett.
What had been a fairly low-key race for the Division D seat gave way to an increasingly heated campaign over the past week. Medley, the longtime incumbent, and challenger Ervin-Knott both ran negative ads in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election.
Medley’s campaign, in a direct mailer, published a photograph of Ervin-Knott next to U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican candidate for U.S. 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 from 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.
The race for the Division F seat descended into acrimony over the past several days, with incumbent Bruno accusing challenger Ramsey of false advertising and violating a temporary restraining order. Judge Lynn Luker, an interim judge at Civil District Court, 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 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 D’Souza against Harrison. A New Orleans native, Harrison, 47, campaigned on a promise to modernize the court and offer more resources to families. Harrison said many lawyers have complained about a “lack of control” in D’Souza’s courtroom. Harrison’s law firm, which opened in 2008, specializes in domestic violence cases, foreclosures and visitation rights.
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.
Domestic Section 2
The three-way contest for the CDC’s newly dedicated second domestic section seat is headed for a runoff after no candidate got 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 victory Dec. 6 will be Barial and Ahern. ?
Barial, 43, has touted her years of working as a minute clerk under Bruno in Division F, which handled the domestic docket during the first three years of his term.
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.”