Newly elected judge draws on early experience as judicial clerk to lead

By Max Schramel | Nov 21, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – Winning the Division D Orleans Parish Civil District Court race in November’s election struck a chord in Nakisha Ervin-Knott’s heart, as it is the court she first began her career.

After receiving her juris doctor from Southern University Law Center in 1998, Ervin-Knott began her legal career as a judicial law clerk for Judge Terri F. Love of Division D of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court. The judge-elect attributes her recent victory in the same division over Lloyd J. Medley Jr., the incumbent candidate who held the position since 1996, to those beginnings in public service over a decade and a half ago.

“Serving as a judge is not about the title, it’s just what you do, it’s not who you are. It’s about public service; any seat holder is elected to serve, but it does not belong to them, it belongs to the public,” Ervin-Knott said.

Ervin-Knott’s support within the New Orleans community is highlighted by her achievements. She has been named a fellow by the Louisiana Bar Foundation in 2012 and crowned “Leader in Law” by New Orleans City Business Magazine this year.

The opportunity to serve where she started as a law clerk, in Division D, inspires a sense of pride in Ervin-Knott.

“For me, I am permitted to be a judge of Division D, my prayer, my pledge, is to provide efficient energetic leadership,” she said.

Just three years ago Ervin-Knott lost out on her first judicial bid to Clare Jupiter in the Division E race of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

She credits her comeback to her resilience and tenacious approach as a leader.

“When I think about this process and what I owe to younger people who are coming behind me is that I have to lead and set an example,” she said.

Ervin-Knott asserted her 16-year career thus far as an attorney has helped her shape a diverse perspective within the courtroom while remaining objective.

“As a judge you cannot be an advocate but you can relate to and understand what it’s like to be a trial lawyer. What happens oftentimes when people have not practiced for a long time is they cannot relate to the lawyers,” she said.

This perspective extends to the beginning of Ervin-Knott’s career as a law clerk, using her past experience as a gauge in how to choose support staff.

“Going in, instead of having docket clerks I plan on bringing in two lawyers or two clerks. If I have three legal minds that will help us be more efficient. Having an extra legal mind on staff will help in reaching judgment as well as having the research on time,” she said.

As far as the transitional period goes before being seated early next year, Ervin-Knott remains busy filling her staff’s quota, placing Division D as her highest priority.

“I’m reviewing résumés, interviewing individuals and prospective candidates, what is important to the administration of justice is the court of this division,” she said.

Ervin-Knott is a partner at Gainsburgh, Benjamin, David, Meunier & Warshauer LLC. In addition, she was the past president of the Independent Women’s Organization and currently serves on the Council of Directors for the Louisiana Association of Justice.

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