The Louisiana Supreme Court has appointed high-profile criminal defense attorney John Fuller to assume the judgeship vacated last year by Frank Marullo Jr. in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
Fuller, 42, a busy criminal trial lawyer at the courthouse at Tulane Avenue and South Broad Street, will preside over the Section D docket pending a Nov. 8 election to decide who will complete Marullo’s six-year term, which runs through 2020.
Appointed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Fuller was defending a client in Magistrate Court on Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.
Fuller, who attended Jackson State University and Loyola Law School, is the principal of John T. Fuller & Associates, a firm he opened in 2010. He began his career in 2001 as a public defender in New Orleans, serving in that role until Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Marullo formally resigned his seat as of Dec. 31, his 76th birthday, after four decades on the bench. The Supreme Court had suspended him in February 2015 as a legal drama played out over whether he was too old to serve after winning re-election the previous fall.
The issue of Marullo’s age was never formally resolved, though it seemed clear that the state’s high court wasn’t buying his legal argument for serving at an age well past the 70-year-old limit set by the state constitution.
In the year since Marullo’s suspension, several retired Orleans Parish judges have been tapped to fill the empty seat. Among them have been retired judges Calvin Johnson and Dennis Waldron. Retired Judge Jerome Winsberg, the seat’s latest caretaker, will continue through the end of April, when Fuller is slated to take the bench.
As a criminal defense attorney, Fuller has made himself a thorn in the side of Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, both in statements to media and in the courtroom, where he is prone to dramatic gestures, brash appeals for his clients and allegations of official misconduct — often with success.
Fuller cannot practice law while he sits on the bench, nor can he qualify as a candidate for judicial office for a year following the end of his appointment, under Supreme Court rules.
Several potential candidates are lining up for what is expected to be a large field seeking to complete Marullo’s term. No sitting Orleans Parish criminal court judge has lost a re-election bid since the early 1970s, making the rare vacant seat appealing to hopefuls who may shy away from challenging an incumbent.
District judges in Louisiana make $148,108 a year, according to the Supreme Court.
Before his retirement, Marullo was the longest-serving judge in Louisiana, having first been appointed by Gov. Edwin Edwards in 1974.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.