BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A meeting concerning judges in the 19th Judicial District Court concluded without resolving the request by Judge Trudy White to move to the civil bench.
Chief Civil Judge William Morvant says White made a formal request to move from the criminal bench to the civil bench. Officials have not yet said when they expect a decision to be made.
"The matter concerning the reassignment of dockets between two judges was discussed at the meeting today, but no decision was reached. When a decision is reached, the court will issue a statement as to that decision," said 19th JDC Judicial Administrator Ann McCrory.
Currently, Judge White serves on the criminal docket and Judge Donald Johnson is on a civil docket, but moving benches is usually based on seniority and Judge Richard "Chip" Moore is also requesting to move from criminal to civil. According to both of their start dates, Judge Moore was sworn in in 2005 while Judge White came on three years later.
"This is a decision that the judges will make. Like I said, they have applied the seniority rule in the past, but that doesn't mean that is not written in the law if they want to change that rule, they certainly can do it," said Skip Phillips, a lawyer serving Baton Rouge since 1983.
The 19th JDC has 15 positions. Every judge is elected, but not to a particular section, such as criminal or civil. Instead, they're simply elected to serve the district as a whole. In East Baton Rouge Parish, there are eight criminal judges and seven civil judges. Moving dockets is usually based on seniority. Currently, Judge Moore is requesting moving, but Judges White and Johnson are requesting swapping with each other.
If approved, Judge White could essentially swap places with Judge Don Johnson. It's not that easy, however, as she may not have the seniority to do so. Based on seniority, Judge Chip Moore has first choice of going from the criminal bench to civil.
Philips says the move is not considered a promotion or demotion. Instead, he says it's a lateral move and does not involve a pay change. It's simply a personal preference of switching to a different set of laws and a different pace day to day. "You will see the criminal district judges dealing with more cases than you would on a given day with civil cases," said Philips.
We're told to expect a decision of who will move where by the week's end. We're also told there was a request by the judges not to discuss what happened at Wednesday's meeting with the public.
The request was made after a series of 9News Investigations into White spanning three months after she reduced the bond for Albert Franklin by $79,000 in November of 2017.
Franklin was arrested on November 14, 2017 on drug, gun, and resisting an officer charges. His bond was set at $88,000, but White went in the next day and reduced that bond to only $9,000.
The 9News Investigators learned that reduction was done without a bond reduction hearing and without the district attorney's knowledge. Franklin was able to quickly make bond after it was reduced to $9,000.
Franklin was arrested on March 12, 2018 on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Chris Lawton, an officer with the Zachary Police Department and deputy chief with the Zachary Fire Department.