Attorneys Desiree Cook-Calvin and Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet will face off Dec. 6 in a runoff for the only contested seat on the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court bench, having beaten out five other candidates, including embattled incumbent Judge Yolanda King, in Tuesday’s voting.
With all the votes in, Cook-Calvin led with 28 percent, while Charbonnet — who served in 2012 as the interim District E city councilman — garnered 20 percent. King ran third with 16 percent, followed closely by juvenile prosecutor Niki Roberts and family lawyer Cynthia Samuel, each with 15 percent. Jacqueline Carroll-Gilds got 6 percent.
The defeat marked a sudden end to a brief judgeship for King, 57, who was ordered to sit on the judicial sidelines by the Louisiana Supreme Court after her indictment in March for allegedly lying about where she lived when she qualified to run for the vacant Section E seat last year. State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office is prosecuting the case, which is pending.
King denies she was living in Slidell when she won a surprise runoff victory last year over former Jefferson Parish prosecutor Doug Hammel. She claims her prosecution was the fulfillment of threats she said “political operatives” lobbed at her to try to force her out of the race last year. She says she took the threats to the FBI and that agents “audioed and videoed all the threats,” though no criminal charges have ensued.
With her legal woes in the public spotlight, the ballot loaded up to challenge King, and she couldn’t weather the storm.
Cook-Calvin, 45, a local attorney and city hearing officer who has run two failed campaigns for state representative, garnered strong political support among black political groups in the city.
Charbonnet, 60, a former city attorney in the Dutch Morial administration, served in 2012 as a fill-in councilman after Councilman Jon Johnson resigned to face federal prosecution and prison time.
Roberts, 39, who has prosecuted cases in Juvenile Court for half of her dozen years as an assistant district attorney, garnered endorsements from the likes of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and City Councilwoman Stacy Head. But it wasn’t enough.
Samuel, 51, lost in the primary for the same seat last year, then lodged a complaint that sparked the state investigation into King’s residency. She too couldn’t muster enough support to make the runoff.
Carroll-Gilds, a lawyer and psychiatric nurse, was making her second run at a Juvenile Court seat.
The race follows a failed legal bid by Mayor Mitch Landrieu to abolish King’s seat altogether under a new law aimed at shrinking a Juvenile Court that critics have called the most bloated in the city, with too many judges for the work.
The law, which took effect Aug. 1, reduces the court to five judges with the retirement this year of Judge Lawrence Lagarde Jr., and calls for the elimination of a second seat on the court when it becomes vacant by “death, resignation, retirement, disqualification from exercising any judicial function pursuant to order of the Louisiana Supreme Court, or removal during the term of office.”
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