Kelly Balfour

Kelly Balfour

Humbled is the word Baton Rouge lawyer Kelly Balfour uses to describe how he feels about his recent election, without opposition, to the 19th Judicial District Court.

Balfour, a partner in the Balfour Emonet Law Firm, submitted his name on the first day of qualifying Aug. 6 to run for the seat being vacated by retiring 19th JDC Judge Mike Caldwell.

The 45-year-old Balfour then had to sweat out two more days of qualifying before learning at close of business Aug. 8 that he had won the seat without the need for an election in October.

"I didn't believe it until a little after 4:30," the married father of three said in an interview Thursday.

So how did he feel once the news finally sunk in?

"Humbled, actually. Humbled. I gotta make sure I don't mess it up," Balfour said with a smile. "It's the first time I've ever done anything like this."

All kidding aside, Balfour — who is active in the Baton Rouge Bar Association — has been a lawyer since 2001 and said he believes his legal experience and his reputation among his peers had a lot to do with him drawing no opponent.

"It's validating," he said. "I think I made a very good candidate with my experience. I always try to conduct myself in a professional manner."

Caldwell, who has been on the 19th JDC bench since 1997, is retiring effective Nov. 1. His term does not expire until the end of 2020.

Balfour, a Republican who was elected to fill the remainder of Caldwell's term, said he expects to begin his judicial duties Nov. 4. If he wants to serve a full six-year term on the court, Balfour will have to run again next fall — and possibly face challengers in that race.

Even though Caldwell presides over a civil docket, Balfour said he anticipates having a criminal docket once he takes the bench because of the way seniority works at the 19th JDC.

And although Balfour's practice was 70 percent civil and 30 percent criminal, he said he's ready for whatever type of docket he will handle.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said.

Balfour, whose father is the former chief public defender for the 15th Judicial District Court in the Acadiana area, said he ran for judge because he wants to serve the community he loves.

"I'd like to give back. Looking forward to serve," he said.

The last 19th JDC judge to be elected without opposition was Fred Crifasi.

When Judge Tony Marabella retired last year, Crifasi, his former law partner, qualified to run for the seat Marabella had held since 2003. Crifasi was unopposed. Like Caldwell, Marabella's term wasn't set to expire until the end of next year, so Crifasi will have to run again next year if he wants a full term on the 19th JDC.  

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