FOURTH CIRCUIT COURT APPEAL
Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman and Civil Court Clerk Dale Atkins are squaring off in the race for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.
The Fourth Circuit of Appeals, through either writs or the appeals process, reviews the decisions of juvenile court judges, criminal court judges and juries and civil court judges and juries for Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. The Court is composed of two judges elected at-large from the three-parish area, one each from St. Bernard and Plaquemines and eight from Orleans. It is the second highest court in the state with jurisdiction over cases from Orleans Parish Civil and Criminal District Courts and District Courts in Plaquemines and St. Bernard.
Longtime Clerk of Civil District Court Dale Atkins says her work there as well as her experiences as a criminal prosecutor have prepared her for the appellate court.
“I have been on front lines of the civil justice system helping citizens navigate through the civil court system and dealing with civil procedure daily,” says Atkins. “As clerk of civil court and a part of the judicial branch, I understand the importance of judges upholding the rule of law.”
Before becoming Orleans Parish’s Civil Court Clerk, a position she has held for nearly three decades, Atkins served as an assistant district attorney for Orleans Parish. She has also worked as an attorney with local law firms, including Bryan and Jupiter.
A New Orleans native, she is a graduate of Xavier Preparatory High School and the University of Notre Dame. She earned her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law.
Atkins, who is proud of her work in the community, was among the Xavier Prep alumni who were instrumental in saving the school and reopening it as Katherine Drexel Prep, when the historic campus faced closure a few years ago.
Judge Robin Pittman has presided over Section F of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court for the past nine years and points to that experience and others as what prepares her to serve at the appellate level.
“I decided to run for office in 2008 because of the love I have for this great city. I am raising my two children here in New Orleans with my husband Keith. I want this community to be a safe and prosperous place for us,” she says. “Having more than 20 years of experience as a civil and criminal practicing attorney…I have the traits and abilities to hit the ground running on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.
A native New Orleanian, Pittman graduated from Mount Carmel Academy and Loyola University. She also earned her law degree from Loyola University School of Law and served as an assistant district attorney in the Orleans Parish DA’s office.
Pittman says she plans to bring the effectiveness and efficiency that she operates her criminal court with to the appellate court if elected.
“I am extremely proud of my ranking…in overall judicial efficiency by the Metropolitan Crime Commission, as I believe it is essential to an effective judiciary that we be on time and respectful of the time and commitments of those in system.”
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 93
The race to replace City Councilwoman At-Large Elect Helena Moreno in the state legislator has drawn four candidates—businessman, Eldon Anderson; attorney, Kenny Bordes; attorney, Royce Duplessis; and bartender, Danil Faust.
District 93 includes the French Quarter, parts of Tremé and the 7th Ward as well the Garden District, Mid-City, Central City.
The need for accountability in education, affordable housing, and infrastructure is why Eldon Anderson is running for State House of Representatives District 93, he says.
Anderson, a businessman and promoter in the local music industry, has three kids in the charter school system and he says issues are not being addressed properly and efficiently.
“I emailed the principal—school leader, which they’re called now—about some issues going on with some kids and the emails were not answered.”
Crime and criminal justice reform are also important planks in Anderson’s platform.
“Criminal justice reform is something we will be talking about for the rest of our lives if we don’t get control of the school system,” he says. “There’s a cultural breakdown in which teachers are from all over the world and don’t understand how to deal with our kids.”
Kenny Bordes is a local attorney who says that his background in various areas of civil rights law gives him a keen insight on the needs of residents.
“My background in civil rights litigation and fair and equal pay law has been something that has really formed myself and my practice over the years,” says Bordes.
He says there are many loop holes that certain “bad actor” employers try to use to disenfranchise our workforce. With a wealth of experience in wage and hour issues, Bordes believes removing the law that prohibits municipalities from setting their own minimum wage requirement is a step in the direction of alleviating the wage gap in our community.
“In our city the median annual income of a White household is $101,000 per year compared to an African American median household income of $33,000 per year,” says Bordes. “Minimum wage and living wage issues are a very big deal right now.”
Royce Duplessis says a commitment to serving the people of New Orleans fuels his bid for the state house.
“At the beginning of the day and at the end of the day it’s all about service,” says Duplessis, whose track record of service includes work in government, private, and non-profit sectors.
What he is most proud of is his dedication to the youth of our community. Every week he speaks at Nelson Charter School and he is a member of the Silverback Society which supports volunteering to positively impact more than 600 boys and young men in the city.
Duplessis says the main issues facing District 93 are housing affordability, infrastructure, and education.
“In dealing with the issue of affordability and jobs, I think there is a direct link between education and folks being able to get good paying jobs and us as a city and a state being able to attract good paying jobs,” Duplessis says.
Though he is not a native New Orleanian, Danil Faust says he fell in love with the city when he visited in 2010. His first time here was the day the Saints won the Super Bowl. After that experience he said, “I’m home and I’ve been here ever since!”
Faust works in the service industry in the French Quarter, which makes him keenly aware of the employment and wage issues faced by our citizenry. Bringing in new industry will positively affect the wage and income issues faced in our city, he says.
“You can’t have a city based on tourism alone because you’re going to have a busy season and a not busy season,” Faust says.
One new industry he would like to see thrive in New Orleans is renewable energy.
“Installing more solar panels on roof tops is a start,” he says, adding that it is also a path to providing more jobs.
“It’s a trade school type deal with one-year training or less and we can put people to work immediately.”
CIVIL DISTRICT COURT
Three are vying for the open seat on Civil District Court. As the newest judge in the building, whoever is elected will join two permanent domestic court judges in handling the varied family law cases that are heard in civil court.
The candidates vying for the seat left vacant by former Civil District Court Judge Tiffany Chase’s election to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal are First City Clerk of Court Ellen Hazeur and attorneys Taetrece Harrison and Richard Perque.
First City Court Clerk Ellen Hazeur says her experiences have prepared her to serve the people of New Orleans as a civil court judge.
“I am uniquely prepared because I have a multi-dimensional, multi-layered background in the law and justice system but also public service,” says Hazeur.
She has been the clerk of First City Court since 2000. First City Court handles small claims and many of the litigants appear without legal representation.
“I have a lot of experience…with being able to assist people going through the process who aren’t attorneys,” says Hazeur, who is a native New Orleanian, a graduate of Xavier University and graduate of Tulane University Law School.
Hazeur is a member of the Louisiana and California state bar associations and has served as a commissioner on the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
A former two-term councilwoman, Hazeur says the time she spent representing the people of District E has also prepared her for the job she now seeks.
“It’s one thing to go to court and represent one person but when you are representing a city or a district you really are in touch with the consequences of the decisions that you’ve made,” says Hazeur.
Taetrece Harrison says switching roles from attorney to judge will not be a difficult task as she intends to employ the approach she uses now as attorney to not always be “adversarial, but attempt to reach an amicable conclusion for both sides.”
With a majority of the litigants in civil district court appearing without a lawyer, Harrison says she has the skills and desire needed to ensure that people have access to the resources to assist them in their pursuit of justice.
“You are going to deal with people who need that assistance and understanding and I do that as an attorney, so I would easily be able to do that as a judge,” Harrison says.
She would like to place a self-help tool online to make information more readily available and the process more efficient.
Harrison is a native New Orleanian and a graduate of John McDonogh High School. She earned her law degree from the Southern University Law Center.
A practicing attorney, Richard Perque says his perspective is different from the other candidates due to his experience as a qualified civil mediator.
“I already on occasion sit down with two parties, I don’t have a dog in the hunt, other than making sure that we reach a judgement or agreement,” he says.
With about half of the cases he handles as an attorney falling under family law, Perque also says he understands the issues litigants face in family court.
In addition to two permanent domestic seats on the court, the court’s newest judge also handles family law cases. However, the “baby” judge seat can see a lot of turnover with judges retiring or seeking election to other positions.
That is one reason Perque says that if elected as civil district court’s newest judge on the domestic docket, he wants remain on the domestic docket even after another judge is elected after him—to bring some continuity to the process.
Perque is a graduate of Loyola University and earned his law degree from the Loyola University School of Law.