Solo practitioner D. Nicole Sheppard and tort lawyer Omar Mason edged out two other candidates to make it into a runoff next month for an open spot on the Civil District Court bench.

Sheppard and Mason enter a head-to-head match-up for the Division J spot on the bench. They will to fill out the last three years in the unexpired term of Judge Paula Brown, who was elected to the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal in March.

Sheppard took 39 percent of the vote compared to Mason's 28 percent.

Trailing behind the top two candidates were Morris Reed Sr., a former Criminal District Court judge and chief of the of the New Orleans NAACP who received 19 percent of the vote. Edward Morris, who served as in-house counsel for the Orleans Parish School Board for 11 years, garnered 14 percent support.

Mason, 43, presented a fresh face as a first-time candidate for the bench. The Loyola University law school graduate’s day job is defending companies from asbestos lawsuits at the Aaron & Gianna firm. He garnered the backing of political heavyweights like state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson.

Mason promised to adapt quickly to the rigors of the bench if elected. He won the backing of fellow attorneys in a New Orleans Bar Association poll.

In a series of last-minute Facebook posts, Mason sought to play up that support by asking citizens to “vote for the candidate with the vote of confidence of his colleagues.”

Meanwhile, Sheppard, 43, stood out as the only woman in the race. She practices everything from family law to contracts and also boasted of organizing the Traffic Court’s first warrant amnesty day. Sheppard counted on name recognition from the TV talk show she hosts on Cox cable, “Real Life.”

Sheppard pledged to bring a focus on repairing family relationships to the bench. She also floated the idea of creating a special foreclosure court to help families at risk of losing their houses.

Sheppard ran an unsuccessful race for Traffic Court in 2013.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge. | (504) 636-7432