BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
October 15, 2012
Judge Mike McDonald, who has served on the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal since 2003 and is seeking another 10-year term on the court, hopes voters will adopt what could be described as his “leave well enough alone” attitude when they go to the polls Nov. 6.
“I’m the incumbent,” said the 66-year-old Republican from Baton Rouge. “I’ve been doing this job for 10 years. Everybody tells me I’ve been doing a good job. Why change horses if you’re riding a good one?”
Judge Trudy White, a former Baton Rouge City Court jurist and fellow Republican who has served on the 19th Judicial District Court since 2009, embraces McDonald’s equestrian analogy and contends she is “as qualified or more qualified as anybody in this race.”
“In any horse race, it’s who gets to the finish line,” White, 56, said. “The people will decide who gets to the finish line.”
Baton Rouge lawyer Gideon Carter III, a Democrat, said he decided to enter the race on the final day of qualifying in August because the only two candidates at that point were Republican judges.
“That was my motivation. I’m a lawyer. Lawyers weren’t represented in that race,” the 57-year-old Carter said. “I represent the interests of real people. I intend to bring a different perspective to the court of appeal.”
A runoff election, if necessary, would be held Dec. 8.
The 1st Circuit seat — 2nd District, Subdistrict 1, Division B — encompasses a large portion of East Baton Rouge, including the southern and southeastern parts of the parish, Central, Zachary and Baker.
According to the Secretary of State’s website, the subdistrict has 227,545 people qualified to vote on Nov. 6. Of that number, 61.4 percent are white, 34 percent are black and 4.6 percent are classified “other.” The website indicates 44.6 percent are male, 55.3 percent are female and the gender of 0.1 percent is unknown.
Also, 45.1 percent of the electorate are Democrats, 32.4 percent are Republicans and 22.6 percent are registered to other parties or to no party.
McDonald, a former longtime 19th JDC judge, argues that merit, experience and an understanding of complex laws are needed to provide justice that is “fair and consistent.” He said the law and the Constitution have guided his rulings.
“You want to retry the case. In the back of your mind is, ‘What would I have done?’ Well, that’s not the standard” for an appellate court judge, he said. “I’m not in the Legislature. It’s not my job to write laws. My philosophy is to give the statutes meaning.”
White argues there is a scarcity of women and African-Americans on the Baton Rouge-based 1st Circuit. Of the 12 judges on the court, she said, three are female and one is black.
“Obviously, I’m female and African-American,” she said. “Our life experiences are different. There needs to be a diversity of life experiences and thought on the 1st Circuit.”
White touts both her legal experience and community service.
“I have a long record of public service in the community,” she said. “Judge me by my public service. That’s what I want them (voters) to connect to. I have an obligation to be out there so people have role models.”
Carter, who has been involved in school desegregation cases in East Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, St. Martin, St. John the Baptist, Tangipahoa and Jefferson parishes, said he has represented clients from all walks of life, crossing all socio-economic, cultural and racial boundaries.
“All parties coming before me on the bench will know that I possess the unique ability to understand exactly what is at stake,” he said. “No interest or concern will go unprotected.”
Republican, Baton Rouge
Education: B.A., LSU; J.D., LSU Law Center
Experience: Appeals court judge since 2003; former district court judge; former assistant district attorney; Navy veteran
Republican, Baton Rouge
Education: B.S., Howard University; J.D., LSU Law Center
Experience: District Court judge since 2009; former Baton Rouge City Court judge
Gideon Carter III
Democrat, Baton Rouge
Education: B.S., LSU; J.D., Southern University Law Center
Experience: lawyer for the past 28 years