Tia Benton Apr. 3, 2013, 3:31pm

GRETNA – Early voting is close to wrapping up for Jefferson Parish voters who will decide the fate of four candidates running for the Division D judgeship in the 24th Judicial District Court special election.

Defense attorney Lorraine Perkins McInnis along with Hilary Landry, Scott Schegel and John Sudderth, all Republican candidates, are running to fill the seat left vacant by Judge Robert Murphy who recently became a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge after running unopposed.

McInnis, 52, is a longtime defense attorney with almost 22 years of legal experience.

“It is incredibly important to have someone with the experience and judicial temperament and maturity to sit on the bench and as I looked around I decided if not me, who could possibly be more qualified,” McInnis said.

Since graduating from law school in 1991 she has practiced civil, criminal and domestic law. She spent five years as a clerk in the 24th JDC and most recently has served in an "of counsel" position with a focus on medical malpractice and product liability defense at New Orleans-based McGlinchy Stafford where she is currently on leave to pursue the judgeship.

McInnis said her experience as a defense attorney would allow her to bring a unique view to the bench and that she would also like to add diversity to the 24th JDC.

“Of the 16 divisions there are only one or two other defense lawyers. I think that’s incredibly important,” she said. “Also, as a woman, there are only three women on the bench. So I think we absolutely need more female representation.”

Regarding legal reform, McInnis stated she believes change is needed.

“I absolutely believe that in reference to the entire 23:15 tort issue there needs to be a reform," she said.  "As a judicial candidate, I really can’t say what my personal opinion is. I do believe that there are areas that need to be addressed."

The other three candidates in the race did not respond to personal statement requests from the Louisiana Record.

Landry, 36, resigned as a part-time prosecutor for the 24th JDC’s drug court program to run for the Division D seat and before that practiced civil law for eight years with New Orleans-based firm Lowe, Stein, Hoffman, Allweiss & Hauver.

Schegel, 35, served as felony prosecutor with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office for nearly four years and also worked in that office’s family violence prosecution unit for one year.  Directly after law school Schegel practiced civil law for three years with New Orleans-based law firm McGlinchey Stafford and was a financial planner for three years before becoming an attorney.

Sudderth, 50, is an assistant attorney general and has taken a leave a leave of absence to pursue the Division D slot. He began his legal career as an assistant district attorney for former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick. Through his career Sudderth has also served as a criminal defense and a plaintiff’s attorney.

The official election will take place Saturday, April 6. If no one challenger receives a majority the vote a runoff election will be scheduled for a later date between the two with the highest vote tallies.

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