Three seek to become first family court judge in 21st JDC

Three candidates are running for a judgeship in the newly created family court division in the 21st Judicial District in Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes.

The district recently converted two of its nine divisions, which are general jurisdiction, into family court divisions to help family cases move more efficiently through the system.

All three candidates — Lila Hogan, Jeff Oglesbee and Vanessa Williams — are vying to replace Judge Zorraine Waguespack, who will retire at the end of 2014.

The candidates agreed the new division is necessary to speed up the judicial process and give family cases the nuanced attention they deserve.

The election date for the race is Saturday, Oct. 19. Early voting starts Saturday, Oct. 5 and ends Oct. 12.

Hogan, a Democrat, graduated from LSU in 1972 with a history degree before receiving her juris doctor from LSU. She clerked for Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Albert Tate Jr. for a year.

Hogan has been practicing at Hogan and Hogan Law Firm in Hammond with her husband Thomas since 1982.

She has been married 34 years and has four children. She also is a grandmother.

Hogan has served on the Louisiana Law Institute Council and its Family Law Committee, which studied the need for family courts in the state.

Hogan touted herself as the only state-certified family law specialist in the race and one of only three in the 21st Judicial District.

Hogan said she hopes to move the district’s family court cases away from being adversarial showdowns between parents.

She said she would encourage the parties to go to mediation to avoid courtroom fights.

“If you’re up there trying to sling mud or blood on the walls, then what you’re doing is slinging your child on the walls,” she said.

Oglesbee, a Republican, graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1991 with a degree in political science. He worked for former state Sen. John Hainkel in the Louisiana Legislature while in college.

He graduated from LSU Law School and worked at the Legislature for about seven years.

He has practiced at the Mack Law Firm in Albany for the past 10 years, handling mostly family law cases.

He formerly served as Walker’s city prosecutor and presides as the city’s magistrate judge.

Oglesbee is married and has a 5-year-old son.

Oglesbee said he wants to become a family court judge to help guide people through the difficult processes of family law.

He said his plan is to help both sides work together to resolve their issues peacefully.

Oglesbee said he’s qualified because he has a wide variety of experience in his 15 years of practicing law.

He also touted himself as the only conservative in the race.

“With this family court judge, maybe more important than any other judge, you need to know what that person stands for and what they believe in,” he said.

Williams, a Democrat, graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in political science.

She received her law degree from the University of the District of Columbia and is licensed to practice in Louisiana and Maryland, where she was a children’s court advocate.

She moved to Louisiana in 2003 and has worked in the 21st Judicial District’s Public Defender’s Office, handling child support cases. She also has worked in the District Attorney’s Office as a criminal prosecutor.

Williams runs a private law office in Amite and has two children.

Williams said her work as a public defender and prosecutor sets her apart from the other candidates.

Williams said she wants to become a judge to help children avoid emotional problems they face when their parents go through a divorce.

She said she has personal experience in a divorce. Her parents divorced when she was young.

“I’m hopeful that if I can become a family court judge, I can catch some of the problems early on, hopefully keeping the focus on the children,” she said.