Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

Veteran defense lawyer Ron Johnson, the twin brother of 19th Judicial District Court Judge Don Johnson, defeated East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman and Zachary City Prosecutor Trae Welch in Saturday's runoff to earn a seat on the 19th Judicial District Court.

Complete but unofficial results showed Ron Johnson winning 57% of the vote. The 65-year-old Democrat is expected to serve on the court's criminal bench. His brother recently moved to the court's civil bench. 

Ron Johnson, a former assistant state attorney general and ex-East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member, has been a lawyer since 1984.

He had finished a close second to Welch, a 47-year-old Republican, in the Oct. 12 primary.

Johnson will serve until the end of 2020. If he wants the job for longer, he will have to run again next fall for a full six-year term on the court.

Both candidates touted their experience and qualifications during the campaign. Both had pledged to administer justice fairly and impartially.

Early last week, the Louisiana Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee — which operates under the state Supreme Court — said Johnson once again violated the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct.

The committee announced Monday it had received a second complaint against Johnson's campaign over a mailer comparing his experience with Welch's.

After the first complaint was filed against Johnson earlier in the campaign cycle, he posted a disclaimer on his website and sent out letters in June acknowledging he had broken two judicial canons.

The acknowledgment was the result of an informal resolution he reached with the committee after a complaint he personally solicited campaign contributions and wore a judge's robe in campaign materials — both practices that aren’t allowed for judicial candidates.

The new, second complaint took issue with a mailer Johnson's campaign sent out and posted on social media that said Welch had no experience trying civil cases, probate cases, family law cases and more.

"A review of the public records of the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court’s Office, however, demonstrate that Mr. Welch has in fact handled numerous civil, probate, and family law cases," retired Judge Melvin Zeno, the chairman of the Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee and a former Jefferson Parish district judge, said in a statement.

"The Committee believes that the mailer and statements made by the Johnson Campaign mislead the public and misrepresent Mr. Welch’s legal experience," Zeno added.

Welch praised the committee's finding, saying, "“The truth is something that a judge should hold in the highest regard."

Johnson said his campaign stands by everything that it printed.

The judicial subdistrict in which Johnson and Welch campaigned covers Baker, Zachary and Central, as well as some areas in Baton Rouge, including parts of Broadmoor and Sherwood Forest.

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