Judge Gavel on a wooden background, Law library concept.

Two small legal practices have moved into downtown office buildings.

The Baton Rouge offices of Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore are now located on the 11th floor of the Chase North Tower, attorney Matt Bailey told the Downtown Development District Board Tuesday. Sprinkle Law Firm has moved into One American Place, said attorney Richard Sprinkle.

Baton Rouge lawyer and judicial candidate Donald Dobbins has failed to persuade the state's highest court to reconsider its decision to suspend his law license for a year and a day.

The Louisiana Supreme Court cited multiple instances of professional misconduct in suspending Dobbins in late January, prompting the longtime lawyer to file a rehearing application with the court.

The justices last Thursday unanimously denied his request without offering additional written reasons. 

Neither the Supreme Court's suspension order nor its denial of his rehearing application addressed Dobbins' Baton Rouge City Court candidacy. His name remains on the City Court ballot.

Dobbins could not be reached for comment Monday, but he previously made it clear that he intends to stay in the race.

His Jan. 29 suspension came three weeks after he qualified to run for a vacant City Court seat. The election was initially scheduled for April 4 but has been pushed back twice due to the coronavirus outbreak. The governor announced Tuesday the election is expected to be held July 11.

In an interview with The Advocate in early February, Dobbins said he had no plans to pull out of the race.

Dobbins, who has been a lawyer since 1991, has said he only needed a law license to qualify for judicial office, but not to be a judge because judges cannot practice law.

Asked about Dobbins' continued candidacy despite his suspension, two former members of the state's Judiciary Commission have pointed to a Louisiana revised statute that deals with qualifications of judges. The statute, 13:1873, says elected city court judges "shall be licensed to practice law in the State of Louisiana for at least five years previous to their election."

One of the former Judiciary Commission members, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment, said it would be "totally ludicrous" to say a suspended lawyer could run for a judgeship. But the ex-member added that he doesn't believe the commission has dealt with such an issue in the past.

He also noted that a lawyer must be in good standing to run for judicial office and be a judge.

"He's not a lawyer," the former commission member said. "I can't imagine the Supreme Court allowing that. He could not take office" if he won.

In addition to suspending Dobbins, the high court also ordered him to pay a combined $4,440 in restitution to two former clients.

The court said Dobbins "failed to provide competent representation to clients; neglected legal matters; failed to communicate with clients; failed to refund unearned fees and unused costs; failed to properly supervise his nonlawyer staff, resulting in false affidavits being filed in the court record; failed to reduce a contingency fee agreement to writing; forged client signatures on settlement checks; and failed to place disputed funds in his trust account."

The Supreme Court previously suspended Dobbins in 2002 for a year, with all but six months deferred, for commingling and converting client funds.

The other candidates in the City Court race are "Greg" Cook, Whitney Higginbotham Greene, Jonathan Holloway Sr. and Johnell Matthews. They and Dobbins are seeking the City Court seat vacated last fall when Judge Tarvald Smith won a seat on the 19th Judicial District Court.

Dobbins' opponents have not commented on the suspension.


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