A Baton Rouge judge was removed Thursday from the case of a convicted felon charged in the 2018 hit-and-run death of Zachary firefighter and reserve police officer Christopher Lawton.

State District Judge Beau Higginbotham, who this year dressed down Albert Franklin Jr.'s attorneys during a hearing in the manslaughter case, was disqualified by fellow 19th Judicial District Court Judge Bonnie Jackson.

Another 19th JDC judge will be randomly re-allotted to the case.

Higginbotham in April had fined prominent New Orleans lawyer Martin Regan and his then co-counsel, Harry Ward, for what the judge described as their disgraceful handling of Franklin's case.

Regan, who now solely represents Franklin, later filed a motion to recuse Higginbotham, citing a Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure provision that says a judge shall be recused when he "is biased, prejudiced, or personally interested … to such an extent that he would be unable to conduct a fair and impartial trial."

Regan also argued that the Code of Judicial Conduct says a judge "shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to … lawyers."

Regan filed the recusal motion four weeks after the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal reversed Higginbotham's contempt-of-court finding against Regan and Ward.

Jackson, who reviewed Regan's motion and a transcript of the April hearing, ruled Thursday that — in light of Higginbotham's comments regarding to competency of Franklin's attorneys — it would be difficult for Franklin to have confidence in Higginbotham's impartiality.

"The judge's ruling was accurate on the law and the facts in the case. Justice has been served," Regan said outside Jackson's courtroom.

"We're looking forward to having a trial as soon as possible with a new judge," he added.

East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings said she did not expect Jackson's ruling to be challenged.

Regan, in a prior interview with The Advocate, had called Higginbotham's actions and comments embarrassing, ridiculous and outrageous.

Higginbotham held Regan in contempt and fined him $100 after he failed to appear the morning of April 10 for a hearing in Franklin's case. Regan showed up that afternoon in the judge's Baton Rouge courtroom and explained he had been in court in Jefferson Parish earlier that day on another felony case.

Higginbotham found Ward in contempt and fined him $50 for what the judge described as Ward's unprepared and ineffective representation of Franklin during a hearing that morning on a motion to suppress Franklin's statements to authorities.

Higginbotham denied the suppression motion after Franklin, 34, of Zachary, took the stand and, on the advice of Ward, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Franklin was free on drug and gun counts after posting bail in a November 2017 arrest in East Baton Rouge Parish when Lawton and another officer tried to arrest him March 12, 2018, on a gun-related offense that occurred earlier that month.

Lawton, 41, was struck and killed during the arrest attempt by a U-Haul truck driven by Franklin in the parking lot of the Walmart on Plank Road in Baker.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.