DESOTO PARISH — Gary Evans, DeSoto Parish district attorney, could face a conflict of interest in the courtroom if his brother, John Evans, is elected judge in DeSoto in November.
Current judicial canons and codes state no judge can hear a case in which he is related to a party within two degrees of representation. There also are laws governing the recusal of judges when related to a district attorney, and laws that call for cases to be randomly assigned within court divisions.
"Should I be elected judge, the code of criminal procedure would prohibit me from hearing any case from the point at which the district attorney’s office is involved in the prosecution thereof,” John Evans told the Louisiana Record.
According to Louisiana Criminal Code 671, Title 22, bias and personal interest are causes for a judge to recuse himself. A judge shall also be recused when he is "related to an attorney employed in the cause or to the district attorney." If elected, John Evans, who has been practicing law in Louisiana since 2005, proposes dividing DeSoto’s courts into “A” and “B” divisions, one for civil cases and one for criminal.
"My proposal would resolve the issues created by a district attorney and judge being siblings, as well as improve the allocation of judicial resources in DeSoto Parish between civil, juvenile and criminal cases," Evans said. "I would point out that Caddo Parish has this same issue today with the district attorney and a judge being father/daughter. What works in our neighbor parish, Caddo, can work in DeSoto Parish."
Evans said that he discussed his candidacy and proposal with Judge Charles Adams, whom would be affected by the plans to separate DeSoto’s courts into civil and criminal divisions. He did not expand upon the details of the discussion. Currently, there are no laws requiring Adams to restrict his judicial responsibility.
If Evans is elected, avoiding possible nepotism by recusing himself from cases involving his brother's office could be cause for concern for DeSoto constituents economically. Local laws dictate that a temporary third judge would have to be appointed and judge’s salaries are covered by the state of Louisiana.
“I have visited with voters throughout the parish and discussed my proposed changes with them. Most voters I have had contact with were very receptive to my ideas. Of course, I have heard some voters express concern over my candidacy, particularly voters who are supporters of opposing candidates,” Evans said.
The other candidates campaigning to be the next DeSoto Parish judge are Amy Burford-McCartney, Brenda Ford and Adrienne White. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.