James Cain jr..jpg

James David Cain Jr.

WASHINGTON — Attorney Barry Ashe is headed for a lifelong job as a federal district judge in New Orleans after the U.S. Senate confirmed him to the post on Tuesday.

The confirmation comes a day after the White House tapped another Louisiana lawyer — Lake Charles attorney James David Cain Jr. — for the vacant federal district judgeship based in Lake Charles.

Ashe, a veteran litigator who's spent the past three decades with the Stone Pigman firm, was nominated to the post last September by President Donald J. Trump.

A lengthy vetting process, partisan battling over Trump's nominees and a long backlog of federal nominees awaiting confirmation in the Senate all delayed final consideration of Ashe's nomination despite there being little or no controversy about his credentials and background. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, initially recommended Ashe to the White House.

Ashe's afternoon confirmation — approved by a voice vote, meaning no senators objected — came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell, R-Kentucky, struck a deal with Democrats to confirm 11 people nominated by the president.

Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, and Kennedy praised Ashe on Tuesday as "well-qualified" and "an obvious choice" for the position.

Ashe, 62, earned undergraduate and law degrees from Tulane University. He served in the Navy and clerked for 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Carolyn Dineen King before joining Stone Pigman.

Ashe declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

Cain, 53, is the son of former Louisiana state Sen. James David Cain Sr., R-Dry Creek. The elder Cain retired from politics in 2008 after 36 years in the Legislature.

"I'm very honored and humbled by the nomination and very grateful to Sen. Cassidy and Sen. Kennedy for their support," Cain Jr. told The Advocate on Tuesday.

Cain was born in DeRidder and attended McNeese State University on a basketball scholarship — where he was briefly teammates with future NBA Hall of Famer Joe Dumars III — before earning his law degree at Southern University in Baton Rouge.

He returned to Lake Charles to clerk for a state appeals court judge and now works there as a civil litigator.

Cain is also the nephew of former Louisiana prison official Burl Cain, who long served as warden of the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola before retiring in 2016 amid questions about his business dealings.

Nate Cain, Burl Cain's 51-year-old son and the nominee's cousin, is currently facing 18 federal counts of conspiracy and wire fraud in the Western District alleging he stole thousands of dollars during his tenure as warden of the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport. Nate Cain's co-defendant and ex-wife, Tonia Bandy, has pleaded guilty in the case.

Nate Cain's federal criminal case has already been assigned to U.S. District Judge Dee Drell and wouldn't come before James Cain Jr. if he's confirmed as a federal judge.

Two other Trump nominees for vacant federal judgeships in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Robert Summerhays and Michael Juneau, have appeared before the Senate's Judiciary Committee — which vets presidential nominees — but also haven't yet come up for a confirmation vote.

The 42-parish Western District includes courthouses in Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport.

Trump has not yet named nominees to fill two additional vacancies in the Western District. The White House also hasn't officially tapped anyone to replace former U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt, who was promoted to the 5th Circuit this year. Sources have told The Advocate, however, that current Louisiana state Supreme Court Justice Greg Guidry is expected to get the nod.

White House eyes Justice Greg Guidry of Louisiana Supreme Court for federal judgeship in New Orleans

Wendy Vitter, another Trump nominee for a vacant New Orleans federal judgeship, is also still awaiting a confirmation vote. Vitter — the general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the wife of former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana — has garnered far more attention and controversy in Washington than Ashe.

Why judicial nominees Wendy Vitter, Kyle Duncan in liberal groups' cross-hairs

Wendy Vitter gets Senate committee sign-off for N.O. judgeship despite strong objections

Vitter has repeatedly come under attack from Democratic senators and activist groups over her outspoken record of anti-abortion activism and her refusal during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to endorse the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka of Topeka, which declared racial segregation of schools unconstitutional.

Advocate staff writer Gordon Russell contributed to this report.


Follow Bryn Stole on Twitter, @BrynStole.