At the end of his 15-second campaign advertisement, Patrick Giraud, a candidate for Traffic Court judge, stands in front of the courthouse and smiles.
“Allow me to continue to serve you as Traffic Court judge,” he says into the camera.
But Giraud is not now, and never has been, a Traffic Court judge.
One of his seven competitors filed a complaint Tuesday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, asking that a judge issue a restraining order barring Giraud from running the ad.
Fellow candidate Nanak Rai charges Giraud’s suggestion that he be allowed to “continue” working as a judge is “grossly misleading” in that it suggests to viewers he is already doing so.
Incumbent candidates tend to fare far better in elections.
Giraud says any confusion is merely an accident.
His father, Thomas Giraud, was a Traffic Court judge for 26 years.
Patrick Giraud has worked at the courthouse in various capacities, but never judge, for nearly three decades.
The 15-second spot, airing on a half-dozen local television channels, is an edited version of the same ad he aired when he ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2011, only cut in half.
The 2011 ad began with him walking around the streets of the city, explaining his history at the courthouse.
“I’m Pat Giraud, and nobody knows Traffic Court better than me,” he said in that spot.
“For the past 23 years, I’ve served the public in every position in Traffic Court except judge. And that’s the job that I’m seeking now.”
He went on to sympathize with traffic scofflaws, then ended with the line on the courthouse steps about wishing to continue his service as judge.
He lost that election to Judge Herbert Cade.
This time around, his campaign cut the first 15 seconds of the commercial, including the disclaimer that he’s never been a judge.
It begins with him commiserating with recipients of traffic tickets: “Everyone gets a traffic ticket, and everyone has a story to tell,” he says. “And, well, some of them are even true. Sometimes you do deserve a break.”
And then he says: “Allow me to continue to serve you as a Traffic Court judge.”
Across the bottom reads, “Paid for by the Committee to Elect Patrick Giraud. Vote this Saturday, Oct. 19.”
Rai names both Giraud and his election committee as defendants.
Rai’s campaign suggests that Giraud is trying to confuse viewers and piggyback on whatever name recognition his father has.
Giraud said it was just an issue of poor editing, which he said he did not do himself.
“I don’t want to be misleading at all,” he said Tuesday. “That’s not what we were intending to do at all. I think this is a ploy by Mr. Rai to get some publicity.”
He promised to review the ad and address any confusion.
Rai filed the complaint in civil court late Tuesday.
“He’s giving the impression that he’s the incumbent and everybody else is just fighting against the tide,” Rai said. “That’s patently unfair. It’s an open seat; we’re all on the same playing field.”
On top of Giraud and Rai, a half-dozen other lawyers are battling to replace retired Judge Ron Sholes.
The Traffic Court bench has long been considered a plum job because of its part-time hours and six-figure salary.
Judge Michael Bagneris scheduled a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to decide whether Giraud should be banned from running the ads, just four days before the polls open.