Judge Jupiter brings years of experience to bench; Started career as journalist

Kyle Barnett Nov. 28, 2011, 6:19am


Clare Jupiter did not know she would eventually become a judge or even have a law career when she completed her undergraduate studies at Yale University.

Jupiter, who was recently elected to Orleans Parish Civil District Court, Division E, started her career as a journalist.

"I graduated from college and started working at the local daily newspaper," Jupiter said.

"After a year or two I felt I could get a competitive edge by getting a law degree so I went to law school. Of course this was around the time of the Watergate conspiracy and everybody and their momma wanted to be a journalist and my law degree did not help me at all."

After getting her law degree at Duke University, Jupiter began the one and only job she has had since becoming a lawyer 32 years ago.

Now a named partner at the Bryan and Jupiter law firm in New Orleans, she has mainly worked as a defense attorney preparing cases for trial with most of her time spent defending the Orleans Parish School Board in workers' compensation matters and personal injury cases.

Although she did not plan to become a practicing attorney at the beginning of her career it became clear when she began her practice that she would eventually seek a judicial position.

"I just wanted to be a judge, not right away, but eventually, for a really long time because they are really just so respected and so appreciated," Jupiter said.

"Many of the judges that I practiced with before, I just wanted to be like them. I thought they made a very positive impact on my ability to practice law and to get the results that I maybe not always wanted, but I appreciated their ability to get the right result."

She says her many years as a practicing attorney taught her to gauge the potential for success of her cases on the personality of the judge.

"Some judges thought certain kinds of damages were worth much more than other judges," she said.

"Some judges were more likely to believe the school teacher. Some judges were very demanding on what they thought the responsibility of school employees were. It's more the principles that the judges apply, rather than they were plaintiff's or defense (attorneys). Although some judges do have a reputation for being tougher on plaintiffs or tougher on defendants."

However, Jupiter says her decades as a practicing defense attorney will not influence her own judgment as judge.

"When you're an advocate you know you've got to work hard for your client," she said. "When you are in the position of deciding who's right and who's wrong that all goes out the window. Everyone comes before you equally."

Before taking the bench for first time early next year Jupiter says she will have to put a lot of time into figuring out what principles she will rely on as a new judge.

"I think I am very much going to be in a learning mode and I expect I will talk with my colleagues a whole lot about how they arrive at certain conclusions and try to understand the rationale," she said.

"I think that we have a very good civil district court right now. The bench is very strong. It seems to be a lot harder working than when I first started practicing law and I think the judges try to reach the correct result. So I want to get the benefit of their years of experience and try to find out how they arrive at things and consider it and see if I want to adopt some of their policies."

Jupiter will finish the last three years of the six-year term Madeleine Landrieu, sister of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, vacated when she was elected to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.

Jupiter was a law partner with former U.S. Congressman William Jefferson before he was convicted of corruption in 2009. She has said that although she practiced law with Jefferson she was not part of his political activities.

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