Duhé credits staff for smooth path to DA’s office

Bo Duhé was on the career path of becoming a banker when he decided in 1989 to go to Tulane Law School. He planned to become a banking attorney, but things changed.

On Aug. 22, a quarter-century after Duhé decided to become a lawyer, he walked in unopposed as district attorney for the 16th Judicial District.

Duhé, who has been the first assistant district attorney under the man he will succeed, was able to claim victory by default because no challenger signed up to run against him in the fall election.

“I think that the fact that I went in unopposed is a reflection of the staff,” Duhé said last week.

On Jan. 1, Duhé will take over the job from Phil Haney, who took the reins in 1980 when former District Attorney Bernie Boudreaux retired two years before the six-year term ended in 1982.

Duhé turns 52 in December.

The staff for the three-parish 16th Judicial District — Iberia, St. Mary and St. Martin — includes 27 prosecutors. Also in the staff mix are investigators, assistants and others.

Duhé said he plans to keep chief prosecutors Anthony Saleme in St. Mary Parish and Chester Cedars in St. Martin Parish.

He said he has not decided on who would be his first assistant, a position Duhé had held in the Haney administration for six years.

Looking ahead to crime problems in the district, Duhé said crimes against the elderly are likely to capture more public attention as more of the population ages. He said victims are starting to report crimes of elderly abuse and exploitation more often.

Other problems include the ever-present illegal drug scourge.

Duhé said he plans to keep programs started and maintained by Haney, including early intervention drug programs designed to divert young first-time offenders from living lives of addicts and inmates.

Becoming a prosecutor for the 16th Judicial District wasn’t in Duhé’s plans when he graduated high school at Catholic High, of New Iberia, in 1980.

At first enrolled at LSU, in 1984, Duhé finished his undergraduate degree in business at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He went to work in the savings and loan industry, part of the banking system that at the time was going through a debt crisis that brought down many institutions.

“It was definitely an area of growth. I was the guy who had to work out the bad debt,” Duhé said.

Duhé decided in 1989 to enroll in law school. “I had then great ambitions to become a banking lawyer,” he said.

But his plan changed in 1991 after graduating law school and passing the state bar exam.

Duhé became a law clerk for state district Judge Robert Fleming. That led to a job in 1993 at the District Attorney’s Office, where he worked his way up to a major crimes prosecutor.

“I like trial work. I like jury work. I like to be in the courtroom,” he said.

Duhé said Haney, with four months left to his term, is not coasting toward retirement.

“He is the DA until his time ends,” he said.

Duhé and his wife Lisa have three children and live in New Iberia.