Judge Clare Jupiter

Judge Clare Jupiter

Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Clare Jupiter is fighting an illness, and her seat will be filled by retired Judge Melvin Zeno for three months beginning Jan. 16, officials said Wednesday.

Court spokesman Walt Pierce said specifics about Jupiter's health weren't available but that her family asked for "prayers and respect for their privacy." She has not been at work this week.

Jupiter's absence comes a little more than three years after she suffered a medical problem in her chambers that one source said was apparently a heart attack.

Zeno spent 16 years on the bench of Jefferson Parish's 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna before retiring in 2008. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson on Tuesday signed the order for him to temporarily take over Jupiter's duties.

Jupiter won a second term unopposed in 2014 for the Section E seat she won three years earlier in a runoff over Nakisha Ervin-Knott, who later joined the court's bench in another section.

Prior to that, Jupiter was best known for her work representing the Orleans Parish School Board as a private attorney.

Her brother, Steven Jupiter, is a judge at New Orleans Traffic Court.

This is at least the second time Zeno has been temporarily appointed to the Civil District Court bench. He temporarily filled a seat that Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods left to join the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal in early 2017. In April, Judge Rachael Johnson was elected as Woods' successor. 

Zeno will be one of two judges serving on the court's bench by temporary appointment. Henry Julien is filling the seat that Judge Tiffany Chase gave up to join the 4th Circuit. A primary election for Chase's seat is set for March 24. 

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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