GONZALES – Pam Alonso lists two main goals in her campaign to become Ascension Parish's next justice of the peace: Restore a greater level of respect to the office; and make the legal system more accessible to the community.
The longtime business owner and mother of one is campaigning for the Second Justice Court seat left open when the Louisiana Supreme Court removed Leroy Laiche from the post in March, on charges he continually mishandled the peace bond process and acted abusively toward litigants who appeared before him.
A special election to replace Laiche is Nov. 8.
In a 40-page decision, the court concluded it was necessary to impose on Laiche "the most severe sanction of removal from office ... to protect the integrity of the judiciary and the public from future harm."
"It's a shame that things have to go to that point," Alonso, 57, a Republican, who lost her prior bid for the position to Laiche in 2014, told the Louisiana Record. "It hurts the parish ... I have a lot of people who go to my office every day and say they're embarrassed, it is an embarrassment."
Holding public office "is a privilege bestowed by the people. It comes with a sacred trust to serve one’s fellow citizens honestly, fairly, and to the best of one’s ability. I have built my professional reputation on those values," Alonso said. "I want to restore some integrity."
Having first received her commission as a notary in 2007, Alonso currently presides as vice president of the Louisiana Notary Association, for which she's also served as an notary instructor for the last six years.
She started a bookkeeping service about 20 years ago, which she still runs. Eight years ago she opened Notary Depot, a full-service public tag and notary service.
Prior to becoming a notary, Alonso, owned and managed a real estate mortgage company for 12 years.
Alonso spends much of her personal time offering community service, along with her husband of 28 years, Michael, who served as a nurse/EMT in the U.S. Army and is a double cancer survivor. The two regularly volunteer at the local fire department.
Alonso also wants to educate the community on what a justice of the peace can do for them and how they can better access its resources.
"Not too many people ... use the services of the justice of the peace because they don't know what services are available to them," she said.
For instance, "a notary here can do everything an attorney can do except represent you in court and give legal advice and file pleadings," Alonso said. "There are some people who have lived here all of their lives and still don't know what a notary can do for them and if they don't know what a notary can do for them, how are they going to know what a justice of the peace can do for them?"
Court officials "should be thought of as people there to help you and you should have access to that assistance," she said. "You should be able to walk into the office and say, 'Here's my problem Ms. Pam, what can you do to help me?'"
According to the Louisiana.gov state website, a parish justice of the peace can perform marriage ceremonies, has jurisdiction in civil matters when the disputed amount does not exceed $5,000 and has jurisdiction "when a title to real estate is involved, when the state or any political subdivision is a defendant, or in successions or probate matters."