Tenure law appeal goes before Supreme Court _lowres

Judge Mike Caldwell

Longtime state District Judge Mike Caldwell is retiring effective Nov. 1, making him the fourth jurist on the Baton Rouge-based 19th Judicial District Court to announce early retirement this year.

Caldwell, 69, has served on the 19th JDC since 1997.

His current six-year term doesn't expire until the end of 2020, so a special election will be held Oct. 12 to fill the remainder of that term.

Two of Caldwell's 19th JDC colleagues — Todd Hernandez, 52, and Lou Daniel, 65 — retired early on March 31, and a third, 69-year-old Mike Erwin, is stepping down Aug. 1.

Their six-year terms also expire at the end of next year, so special elections to fill those seats will be on the October ballot as well.

Caldwell, who declined a request Wednesday for an interview, said he’ll turn 70 in September, meaning he would not have been able to run for another term next year.

In his May 1 letter of prospective retirement sent to Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Caldwell gave no reasons for his decision.

Caldwell, who practiced law for 22 years before becoming a judge, in defeated Randy Piedrahita, his first challenger since Caldwell's 1996 election, in 2014. Piedrahita has since died. 

Hernandez, who had sat on the 19th JDC bench since 2001, was the first of the court’s four judges to announce early retirement when he did so in late December. He has returned to the practice of law, something he did from 1989 to 2001.

Erwin, the 19th JDC’s longest tenured judge, said in March that he will be retiring Aug. 1. He has served on the court since 1991 and has been involved in the criminal justice system for four decades, previously serving as an assistant city prosecutor in Baton Rouge and an assistant district attorney in East Baton Rouge Parish. Erwin said he’s been ready to hang up his judicial robe for quite some time.

Daniel, like Caldwell, began serving on the 19th JDC in 1997. Daniel also announced his retirement in March. He spent four decades in 19th JDC courtrooms, first as a law clerk, then for about 16 years as an East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor before being elected to the bench. Daniel said it was time to retire and do some of the things he always wanted to do.

The qualifying period for the special judicial elections is Aug. 6-8.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.