LAFAYETTE - Two candidates seeking seats on the Louisiana Supreme Court recently squared off at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
State District Judge Marilyn Castle and Appellate Court Judge Jimmy Genovese are both Republicans competing for the seat of retiring Associate Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll. The winner will serve a 10-year term in the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The candidates share similarities in their views on several issues, disagreeing mostly on who should be the champion of the election. Genovese’s campaign site leads with the judge’s statement of beliefs reading, “I believe in God, my family, law and order, equality and fairness. You can trust that I will not legislate from the bench, but will correctly interpret the law. I will be an impartial decision-maker and provide logical and fair appellate reviews in the pursuit of justice.”
Genovese describes his judicial philosophy as “Absolute fairness and equality, a level playing field with a balanced approach, no allegiance to any special interest groups, a strict following of the rule of law, and pro God, pro-life, pro-family and pro-justice.”
Genovese has 21 years’ experience as a trial attorney in south Louisiana, was the past president of the St. Landry Parish Bar Association, is a Louisiana State Bar Association member, a Colorado Bar Association member and American Bar Association member. He is also admitted to the bar in all state and federal courts in Louisiana, as well as in the state of Colorado and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Castle’s site describes her experience as a steering committee and founding board member of Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic, a free medical care for working poor. It lists her as a member of Asbury United Methodist Church, the recipient of the 2008 “Women Who Mean Business” award and a member of the Lafayette Parish criminal justice coordinating committee. She has served as the district attorney for the East Baton Rouge Parish, head of the Appellate Division and as a felony prosecutor.
Throughout the year, both candidates have highlighted their expertise, but more so their opponents' flaws, which were again brought to light in the recent debate.
Genovese has consistently touted his experience in the 3rd Court of Appeal for more than a decade as why he could "hit the ground running" if elected to a seat on the highest court in Louisiana. Genovese also emphasized State District Judge Marilyn Castle’s lack of similar experience, stating during the debate that the Supreme Court is not a place for "on-the-job training.”
“Chief Judge Marilyn Castle’s experience speaks for itself," Brian Landry, vice president of political action for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) told the Louisiana Record. "Throughout her 17 years on the bench, Judge Castle has proven time and time again that she is committed to cleaning up our courts and preserving the proper role of the judiciary. She has consistently served without bias or even a hint of impropriety."
Landry said that before being elected to serve on the bench, Castle was a private litigator and an assistant district attorney, handling more than 100 cases before the Louisiana Supreme Court.
"The same cannot be said for her opponent, who has been ranked as one of the worst judges on the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal," Landry said. "If you are not performing well in the job you have, you don’t deserve a promotion.”
Campaign contributions have been a focal point between the two candidates during the year. According to the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program’s (LEAP) last campaign finance report for the candidates, Genovese’s Cash on Hand was $260,998.76 and Castle’s Cash on Hand was $233,991.27.
Genovese said during the debate that he had not accepted any political action committee (PAC) donations while Castle had, opining the PAC contributions can "influence and manipulate" a candidate and a campaign.
According to the LEAP campaign finance report, while Castle’s PAC money totaled $36,500, Genovese did have a PAC contribution of $2,500.00. He received it March 8 from the Crescent River Port Pilots Association's sea political action committee.
“Louisiana has seen enough dishonest politicians, we don’t need to elect one to the Supreme Court," Landry said.
Castle countered Genovese’s PAC comment by highlighting that most of Genovese's contributors are lawyers. LEAP’s campaign finance report supports Castle’s argument, showing Genovese collected $148,956.07 from trial lawyers in two separate days in campaign reports filed between Jan. 1 and July 31.
When asked why LABI unanimously endorsed Castle as a candidate over Genovese, Landry told the Louisiana Record, “LABI’s PACs thoroughly vetted both candidates last year, and Judge Marilyn Castle was the clear choice. Throughout 17 years of judicial service, Judge Castle has earned the respect of her colleagues and proven she will serve Louisiana in a fair and just manner. She has a consistent record of following the law and respecting the Constitution, and her decisions are based on facts and evidence, not personal relationships.”
“The citizens of Louisiana deserve to have experienced, qualified professionals sit on the highest court in the state. There is no one who better fits these criteria than Judge Castle,” Landry said.