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8 Candidates Vie for Traffic Court Judgeship: Voters' Guide



The eight candidate Traffic Court Judge race has already run though its early voting phase, and now the candidates are revving up for Saturday's election. Over the last month, NOLA Defender set out to find out more about the candidates.

 

The special election to fill the seat vacated by Ron Sholes is set for Oct. 19. The top two finishers in that election will likely face off in a Nov. 16 runoff.

 

NOLA Defender sent all eight candidates the same questionnaire. Their responses, which were only edited for grammar, are below, with questions in bold. For candidates who did not submit responses, we culled information from their websites where applicable. If the candidates choose to respond between now and the election, we will add the responses to the article.

 

 

MARIE BOOKMAN

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Education:   Loyola University -B.A. -1979;

Loyola University School of Law - Juris Doctorate- 1983.

 

Experience:

-I have practiced law in Louisiana for over 25 years, including 12 years at the City Attorney's  Office, where I served as a Deputy City Attorney handling civil defense litigation, wrongful death, serious auto and other accident and injury cases;

 

-I have also served two (2) six-year terms (for a total of 12 years) as a Magistrate Commissioner in Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans (Oct. 1998 - Oct. 2010) handling bond settings and review of arrest and search warrants on State charges;

 

-I have presided over hundreds of  preliminary hearings on felony charges, extradition hearings and thousands of misdemeanor cases assigned to my section of Court, (after the charges were accepted by the District Attorney).

 

-I have been an Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy at Tulane University School of Law since 1993 and also am the owner of the Law Office of Marie A. Bookman, where I handle civil, criminal, traffic and municipal cases. I have years of experience both as a practicing attorney and a Juris in this Community.

 

Endorsements: The Independent Women’s Organization of Greater New Orleans (IWO), Forum For Equality

 

 

How do you plan to balance fairness to the citizens you will encounter with the City's obvious need to bring in funds—via tickets and other citations?

I will be fair and impartial, as a Judge, and will work to balance the needs of the public and/or the public's interest with my duties as a Traffic Court Judge. I will hold a Pre-Trial in each case,  give each side an opportunity to speak, weigh the evidence and/or information to determine the probable outcome and offer solutions for consideration to both sides. If the defendant enters a plea, I will review his or her financial information to determine their ability to pay and/or whether community service or other measures are applicable. I will review the fines and fees schedule to assure that it is reasonable, particularly, in minor offenses. I will work with the Probation Department, as well as encourage Diversion and/or Expungements, where applicable, especially for first time offenders; however, I will be tough on repeat DWI and DUI offenders.

 

What is your stance on the effectiveness/fairness of the traffic camera system?

Although I am opposed to the Traffic camera light cases, they are not under the purview of Traffic Court at this time. I am not opposed to those cases being assigned to Traffic Court, where the issue of due process can be more properly reviewed. At the present time, there does not appear to be proper due process, rendering the traffic light camera tickets unconstitutional in my opinion.

 

What can be done to make the process more effective and less obtrusive to citizens?

It can only be made more effective and less intrusive, if it were returned to Law Enforcement patrol and/or if citizens were allowed to face their accusers and a reasonable opportunity to refute the charges and/or ticket. The current system is against the vehicle; however, the owner is forced to pay unreasonable fines, whether or not they were the actual drivers.

 

What does the phrase, "Justice for all," mean to you?

It means exactly what it says, Justice for All, not the elite or just those who can afford representation, but for all citizens, equally. I will uphold the presumption under the law that all  persons are innocent until proven guilty, be fair and impartial and treat each citizen equally, whether they are rich or poor.

 

Final thoughts? What should people know heading to the polls?

The citizens should know that I am the most qualified candidate and woman seeking this Office. I have practiced law in this Community for over 25 years, as an attorney with a wide range of experience in Civil, Criminal, Federal, Municipal and Traffic Court. My service as a Deputy City Attorney for twelve (12) years and my Judicial experience as a Magistrate Commissioner for twelve (12) years,  has prepared me to become the next Traffic Court Judge. There are four (4) Traffic Judge seats and if elected, I will be the first woman elected to serve in that position in the history of New Orleans. I ask the public to vote for me #33 on October 19th or during early voting on October 5th -12th.

 

STEVEN MARK JUPITER

Political Affiliation: Democrat

 

Education:   Xavier University -B.A. -1992;

Columbus School of Law at Catholic University; Washington D.C.

Juris Doctor, 1996

 

Experience: 

Jupiter Law Firm, L.L.C.; Haley Law Firm, L.L.C.; Louisiana Justice Institute;    NAACP Gulf Coast Advocacy; Leblanc, Maples & Waddell, LLC ; Office of the Public Defender Litigation Manager  - First Judicial District – Caddo Parish; Law Clerk for The Honorable Michael G. Bagneris, Civil District Court 

 

How do you plan to balance fairness to the citizens you will encounter with the City's obvious need to bring in funds—via tickets and other citations? 

The City’s obvious need to bring in funds--via tickets and other citations should never jeopardize fundamental fairness to the citizens.  As a traffic court judge, I would dispense justice fairly and effectively by using measured accountability to make the punishment fit the offense.

 

What is your stance on the effectiveness/fairness of the traffic camera system?

The Traffic Camera system has been effective to the extent that it has influenced drivers to obey the law. Traffic camera tickets are unjust for 2 reasons. First, the delays in notification of a violation make it more difficult for the person receiving a ticket to recall the details of an incident, and adversely affects the driver’s ability to challenge a ticket. Second, because traffic camera tickets are issued to the registered vehicle owner, it assumes that the driver of the car and the person whom the car is registered are one in the same.

 

What can be done to make the process more effective and less obtrusive to citizens?

Making my traffic court a 21st century courtroom by pursuing new innovations to efficiently manage court and public safety resources. I am in favor of ease of use and improving the court’s ability to serve the public more effectively through technology, such as:

 

Using a case management system that will improve and expedite scheduling and processing of cases and increase information sharing and access among all the users and stakeholders [court, staff, defendants, law enforcement, probation officers].

 

Maximizing time and resources of all stakeholders, particularly, NOPD by taking into account the officer’s schedule so that the court can consolidate their court appearances and help reduce case dismissals because of officer no shows or scheduling conflicts.  Utilizing video conferencing for officers/expert witnesses who cannot physically appear in court.

 

Automated Confirmations of Hearings and Payment Deadlines.  Using personalized email, telephone, and text messages to makes it easy and convenient for defendants to confirm hearings, request continuances, make their payments and/or request extensions, thereby increasing confirmation rates, decreasing no-shows, and saving time.

 

Dispense justice fairly and effectively by using measured accountability to make the punishment fit the offense.

 

Bring honor and dignity to my courtroom by demanding professional and respectful behavior from my staff toward everyone who comes to the court. 

 

 

What does the phrase, "Justice for all," mean to you?

“Justice for all” means that all citizens will be treated fairly and equally regardless of race, gender,social status, religon or sexual orientation.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”

 

Final thoughts? What should people know heading to the polls?

We have just commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing and the 1963 March on Washington, two significant events in our history which heralded the Voting Rights Act.  It simply is important to exercise the right to vote, as a citizen and in honor of those who laid down their lives for us to have that right.

 

RICHARD PERQUE

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Education:   Loyola University New Orleans, Business Administration-2000;

Loyola University School of Law - Juris Doctorate- 2006.

 

Experience:

Perque began his legal career practicing in his family's law firm in Assumption Parish. In 2008, Perque opened his own practice in New Orleans. He was named "Top Lawyer" by New Orleans Magazine (2012).

 

He has experience in Traffic, Municipal, State, and Federal Courts, as well as Domestic, general corporate litigation, misdemeanor and felony client representation, and Complex federal litigation.

 

Endorsements: The Independent Women’s Organization of Greater New Orleans (IWO), Republican Parish Executive Committee, Forum For Equality, Log Cabin Republicans, Young Democrats, Seth J. Bloom (Orleans Parish School Board), Charlie Melancon (former Congressman).

 

How do you plan to balance fairness to the citizens you will encounter with the City's obvious need to bring in funds—via tickets and other citations?

All people agree that the City of New Orleans is grossly underfunded. However, this underfunding doesn’t necessitate that Traffic Court be relied upon for this income. The Traffic Court system is designed and maintained to enforce the laws of the City of New Orleans; it is not a taxing authority. The purpose of the Judges within traffic court should not be confused or analogized with the City Council in its ability to raise funds for city services. Accordingly, I see the role of the Traffic Court Judge as one in which the laws of the City are maintained, enforced, balanced with the equity to ensure fairness to all citizens.

 

What is your stance on the effectiveness/fairness of the traffic camera system?

Under Cannon 7 of the Louisiana Judicial Code of Conduct, I am prohibited from making any statement that would reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending in any Louisiana state court.

 

In accordance with Cannon 7, the utilization and constitutionality of the Traffic Camera system is not within the purview of the Traffic Court jurisdiction. However, it is important to note that the implementation of traffic cameras should be decided in conjunction with the Traffic Court and City Council, not just the council itself. Additionally, it is must be noted that the appeal process does lie within the jurisdiction of the traffic court system. I believe that this system should be reformed to provide a streamlined process directly to traffic court; without the necessity of posting an appeal fee.

 

What can be done to make the process more effective and less obtrusive to citizens?

There are several actions that may be taken by the Court to make the process more effective and less obtrusive. The most important change required is in its communication to the general public. The Court fails to provide defendants and litigants with any true direction in courtroom policies and procedures. This may be effectuated by having the judge address the courtroom and informing the litigants of how the process will be completed

 

At 2:00pm, I will take the bench to open court and to provide the litigants with a dialogue of their rights, duties, and the court’s procedures.

 

Litigants will be informed that:

 

1. They will be given an opportunity to meet with the city attorney to determine if a plea is appropriate, the city attorney will refuse the charges, or if the matter will be set for a trial on the merits.

 

2. For any plea, the defendant shall be provided a form to sign and date, acknowledging that they have met with the city attorney and they understand that they are entering a plea deal, further; they are waiving their right to a judge trial. This form shall be stapled to the original citation and shall become part of the official court record.

 

3. Should the defendant or city attorney seek to set the matter for trial, the court shall provide three (3) possible dates for trial.

 

4. Once a matter is set for trial, the city attorney and the defendant shall each be provided one (1) continuance without mutual consent, and without a showing a good cause. Should each party use one (1) continuance, the court shall not grant any further continuances without a showing of good cause or mutual consent of the parties.

 

What does the phrase, "Justice for all," mean to you?

The general perception of Traffic Court is that it is filled with corruption and inequality. It is commonly thought that the people “in the know” are treated differently from the general public. It is time that the Court treats all litigants equally, regardless of race, gender, social economic, or political standing.

 

Final thoughts? What should people know heading to the polls?

I am a newcomer to politics and do not have the same ties to the old political Traffic Court system. Unlike the other candidates, I have embraced the need for change and complete reform, including the implementation of the BGR report. I understand that our system has reached its breaking point with the citizens of New Orleans. It is incumbent that our elected officials understand that the Court should address the needs and the citizens of our City. This includes right sizing our courts and utilizing our public funds in the most efficient way possible.

 

NANAK RAI

 

Education:   University of Texas at Austin - BA Finance and Risk Management (1988), Tulane University School of Law  - Juris Doctorate- 1993.

 

Experience

-Over 16 years of traffic court experience, primarily in New Orleans, but have practiced state wide. Handled thousands of regular traffic tickets and hundreds of DWIs.

 

 

How do you plan to balance fairness to the citizens you will encounter with the City's obvious need to bring in funds—via tickets and other citations? 

My vast experience in traffic court allows me to objectively determine how to "fairly" apply the law.  Therefore, I do not necessarily see my job as a balancing act, my duty is to be fair to the citizens of this great city and not city hall. 

 

What is your stance on the effectiveness/fairness of the traffic camera system?

I am the only candidate in the race that has made traffic cameras part of my platform.  The current system of using hearing officers employed by the city does not, in my opinion, allow for due process.  This is why I am advocating for this system to be reformed. Streamlining the process by moving the camera tickets and parking violations back into traffic court will also save money and make for a more efficient system.

 

What can be done to make the process more effective and less obtrusive to citizens?

I have formulated the 'RAI plan' for New Orleans Traffic Court. 

 

"R" stands for reforming red light tickets (camera tickets);

 

"A" stands for Algiers and holding court there several times per month to accommodate citizens there;

 

"I" stands for improve technology making the court more efficient and effective. Currently, Traffic Court relies on a majority paper system.

 

Improving technology, which is part of my plan, would significantly improve the current system.  In addition to technology, I plan on extending court hours to allow our citizens an opportunity to be heard. 

 

 

What does the phrase, "Justice for all," mean to you?

The phrase, " justice for all," to me means that each and every citizen no matter what their race, gender, ethnicity, or income level deserve the same opportunity to be fairly heard before a judge or other trier of fact.

 

Final thoughts? What should people know heading to the polls?

I am truly the only candidate with significant traffic court experience.  I am the only one that has represented the people day in and day out for the past 16 years, in the trenches. I have not sat ad hoc, I have not been a prosecutor, nor have I been a clerk or crier. I do not answer to City Hall or any of the current judges. After I am elected, I will continue to answer to the same people I answer to now, the citizens of New Orleans.

 

DEMETRIE FORD

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Education:   Loyola University -B.A. -1988;

Loyola University School of Law - Juris Doctorate- 1991.

 

Experience:

On his website, Ford claims that his experience, "spans a variety of traffic related issues that requires a fair and balanced judge who truly understands how this system works and knows how to improve it."

 

He has operated his own law practice for 21 years; handling cases in local, state and federal courts.

 

In 2002, Ford began his service at the City of New Orleans as an assistant City Attorney/District Attorney prosecuting regular traffic and DWI cases. He has worked as a defense attorney, prosecutor and ad hoc judge in the Juvenile Court and presided over city traffic and municipal matters as a Magistrate for the City of Harahan.

 

 

Endorsements: Forum for Equality

 

 

 

PATRICK A. GIRAUD

Political Affiliation: Democrat

 

Experience:

(No response from candidate)

 

Giraud is an attorney with thirteen year of experience. He is also the son of a former Traffic Court Judge, Thomas Giraud—who served in the position for nearly three decades before he passed in 1998.

 

Endorsements: Regular Democratic Organization

 

 

CLINT SMITH

Political Affiliation: Democrat

 

Education: Tulane University School of Law  - Juris Doctorate

 

(from candidate website) Clint’s Mission and Vision for Traffic Court:

 

•Efficiency – Traffic court is the only division of our legal system most citizens ever experience. The court should work for the people. During his time as judge pro tempore of traffic court, Clint experienced firsthand the frustration felt by many who disputed tickets and were often required to make multiple trips to court to contest just one ticket. Clint will work with local law enforcement to make the process more efficient and work aggressively to resolve the dispute without citizens being required to return multiple times to court.

 

•Empowerment through Community Outreach – Clint believes judges should serve the people. Since traffic court is responsible for handling DWI/DUI cases, the court should reach out to people to educate them about the dangers of drinking and driving. Clint believes early education will prevent bad accidents, fatalities and future appearances before a traffic court judge. To implement his vision to empower the community, Clint will speak to high school and college students about the negative effects and the monumental impact drinking and driving can have on their lives and careers.

 

•Engagement – Traffic laws, rules and fines have undergone significant changes overtime. As a public servant, Clint believes the court should help publicize these changes so that people are informed. Clint will lead the way in reaching out to the community to inform them about new traffic laws. He will meet citizens at churches, neighborhood association meetings, and other community events to get the word out. He will make sure the court serves the people

 

•Traffic Cameras – Clint believes the current process for reviewing and contesting traffic camera tickets is unfair.  Traffic cameras issue citations to the person to whom the car is registered, not the actual driver. There should be due process in court to face your accuser.  Clint believes citations issued from traffic cameras should fall under the same standards of review as tickets under the jurisdiction of traffic court.

 

•Partnership w/ Taxi Drivers Union – Former Mayor Marc H. Morial appointed Clint as an Administrative Law Judge for the Taxicab Bureau. Clint recently initiated talks with the cab drivers union and they agreed to work together to decrease the temptations to drink and drive. Their plan involves fostering a working relationship between bar owners and cab drivers to encourage people to take a cab or have a designated driver instead of getting behind the wheel. Clint is honored to have the support of the Taxi drivers union.

 

D. NICOLE SHEPPARD

 

Political Affiliation: Democrat

 

(No response from candidate)

 

 

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