A district court judge, a prosecutor, a former city court judge and an ex-legislator are vying for a soon-to-be-vacant seat on the Baton Rouge-based state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
Eighteenth Judicial District Court Judge William Dupont, of Plaquemine; Terrebonne Parish Assistant District Attorney Chris Erny, of Houma; former Baker City Court Judge Mark Plaisance, of Thibodaux; and ex-state Rep. Mitch Theriot, of Raceland, are seeking the 1st District, Division B seat held by Circuit Judge Edward “Jimmy” Gaidry, of Houma, who is retiring at year’s end.
Dupont, 60, is the lone Democrat in the race. Erny, 44; Plaisance, 51; and Theriot, 49, are Republicans.
The district includes the parishes of Ascension, Assumption, Iberville, Lafourche, Pointe Coupee, St. Mary, Terrebonne and West Baton Rouge. There are about 290,000 registered voters in the district.
The election is Nov. 6. A runoff, if necessary, would be held Dec. 8. Early voting is Tuesday through Oct. 30.
Dupont, who has served on the 18th Judicial District Court for the past eight years and is its current chief judge, argues he is the only candidate in the race with experience as a trial judge in felony, misdemeanor, civil and juvenile cases. The 18th JDC covers West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes.
“There’s no question about it,” he said. “Judicial experience is the most important (qualification). That is one of the most important things to look at.”
Dupont, a former Plaquemine City Court judge and ex-assistant district attorney, contends he has paid his dues.
“I don’t believe in taking short cuts,” he said. “I don’t believe in skipping levels. It’s (the 1st Circuit) a logical progression to move to the next level.”
Erny, who has been a Terrebonne Parish prosecutor for the last nine years, touts his experience in the courtroom.
“My litigation experience by far gives me the most experience,” he said. “I live in the courtroom. I know what it takes to get a good conviction.”
Plaisance, a former Baker City Court judge, said he has represented more than 300 clients in appellate matters in both state and federal courts.
“I’m the only attorney (in the race) who has judicial and substantial appellate experience,” he said. “I have the right experience that’s needed for an appellate court judge.”
Theriot, who spent eight years in the Legislature as a state representative, said he serves as an appointed municipal court magistrate in the Lafourche Parish towns of Golden Meadow and Lockport.
“I have practiced the law for 25 years, taught the law at the university level (Nicholls State in Thibodaux) for 16 years, have helped make and shape the law for eight years and have interpreted the law for 10 years,” he said.
Dupont said he is proud of his record of being a fair jurist who listens to both sides.
“When you sit on the bench, you’re not an advocate (as an attorney is) anymore,” he said. “When you become a judge, you throw that advocacy aside.”
Erny argues that the role of the appeals court is to “ensure the integrity of the litigation process” — a process in which he has been deeply involved.
Plaisance, an adjunct college professor and former journalist, maintains he possesses a unique set of skills and perspectives as a writer, communicator and jurist that would serve him well on the court of appeal.
Theriot said his “thorough knowledge of the law” would be an asset on the “reviewing court.”