WASHINGTON — Baton Rouge lawyer John W. deGravelles is the choice to replace U.S. District Judge James J. Brady as a full-time judge in the Middle District of Louisiana.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Thursday she is recommending deGravelles as her sole pick for the federal bench to President Barack Obama, who will have the final say. Senate confirmation also is required.
DeGravelles, 64, is a longtime civil litigator who represents plaintiffs in personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits. He is a senior partner in the deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus & Frugé law firm. He is an adjunct faculty member with the LSU Law Center and the Tulane University Law School. He also does pro bono work for death row inmates.
DeGravelles said in a prepared statement that he is “extremely honored.
“I do not believe there is a better way to serve our system of justice,” deGravelles stated. “The Middle District is blessed with exceptional judges and I am excited for the opportunity to contribute to this tradition of excellence.”
Landrieu worked with an unofficial search committee of legal and community leaders to come up with a short list before she chose deGravelles.
“John brings years of experience as a litigator, professor and respected advocate and enjoys a broad base of support from the legal community,” Landrieu said in her prepared statement. “I know his sharp and sensible reasoning and strong character will add to the already impressive talent on this bench.”
Judge Brady, of Baton Rouge, notified the White House in August that he would assume senior status at the end of this year. Judges who take senior status are permitted to shoulder a reduced caseload.
By taking senior status, Brady, 69, enables the president to nominate a third full-time judge to the U.S. District Court based in Baton Rouge. The other judges are Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson and U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, who was sworn into office earlier this year.
As the state’s Democratic senator under a Democratic president, Landrieu was in charge of making recommendations. She chose to make deGravelles her sole pick, rather than offer up a few names to the White House.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., could block the confirmation by the Senate, if he chooses.
Vitter previously blocked Dick’s nomination for several months, pending the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. Vitter relented and supported Dick after Obama won reelection.
DeGravelles was named one of the top 10 lawyers in Louisiana in the Law & Politics publication, of Minnesota.
His father, Charles, was a prominent Lafayette oil-and-gas landman who is widely known as a father of the modern Republican Party in Louisiana. Charles deGravelles, a member of the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame, chaired the state Republican Committee in the 1960s and 1970s and he was close to President Ronald Reagan.
But John deGravelles went in a somewhat different direction after graduating from the LSU Law Center.
In the 1980s, deGravelles worked as an environmentalist. He founded and led the Citizens for a Clean Environment group in Louisiana.
After starting and leading a successful law firm, deGravelles chaired the Louisiana Trial Lawyer’s Association Hurricane Katrina/Rita Relief Committee. He also served as president of the association. After the 2010 BP oil disaster, he coauthored the law article, “The Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster: Issues of Personal Injury and Death.”
DeGravelles once served an interim stint on the Louisiana Supreme Court so, if he is confirmed, this would become his second time working as a judge.
LSU Law Center Chancellor Jack Weiss praised deGravelles for a career that “has combined extraordinary skill as a courtroom advocate with distinguished scholarship, teaching, and leadership of the profession.”
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said he has known deGravelles for more than 30 years as “one of our state’s brightest, hard-working and compassionate trial attorneys. He has practiced at the highest level, combining tenacity and compassion with the highest ethical standards.”
Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson said deGravelles is a “wonderful choice,” especially because he has so much courtroom experience, which she described as important for a judge. “I’m not sure she (Landrieu) could’ve made a better pick,” Pierson said.