Six years ago, then MP Hunter Greene defeated longtime East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court judge Annette Lassalle for a seat on the four-judge court.
Now the shoe is on the other foot and the incumbent Greene faces an election challenge from Attorney Kathy Benoit in the November 3rd election. Both are Republicans and live in Baton Rouge.
Greene is the only East Baton Rouge Family Court judge to appeal this fall, just as Lassalle was the only Family Court judge to pull an opponent in 2014.
Louisiana State Representative Hunter Greene is to remove longtime Family Court Justice Annette Lassalle as recent election results show he is more …
Greene, 54, served in the House of Representatives from 2005 to 2014 and had more than 15 years of experience as a family law attorney prior to joining the bank.
He said his legal experience, combined with his experience as a family court attorney, separated him from his opponent.
"I'm the only one with legal experience, which is very important when you're dealing with children and families," said Greene, who is married with three children.
Benoit, 48, who has given birth to five children, divorced once and is now legally separated, said she has a passion for family court and family law.
"The family court decides the success or failure of our city," she stressed the importance of judges dealing properly with divorce cases involving children. "They are our next generation. They are the ones who are going to suffer. Our society is really affected by the family court."
Although judges cannot exercise law, Greene said he had been admitted to the bar and allowed to exercise the law since 1994, noting that Benoit was barred from practicing law from October 2008 to January 2010 and again from September 2010 to February 2018.
"There is just no legal experience," he said of Benoit. "When I ran (2014) I had the experience and the qualifications."
Benoit, who received her legal license in 1996, said that during the time she was away from attorney, she ran the family lawn service business at home, bringing together a family of seven children from three different families. She said she was also under-working, trying to coordinate two separate custody judgments from two of these families as she tried to raise healthy and well-adjusted children.
"Actually going through that period … probably gave me the experience of two or three lifetimes raising children," she said. "Personally, I don't think many people could have mastered this endeavor and been successful. These years have been invaluable for me to run for this position."
If it's "the worst thing I've done in his eyes, then I'm fine with it," added Benoit.
After Benoit qualified for Greene's Division D seat in July, Greene said he refused to continue presiding over a family court case in which Benoit was representing himself.
Last month, Benoit filed a complaint with East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III alleging that Greene did not meet the residence requirements for his office because he had not lived in the constituency for a year before qualifying.
However, Moore found that Greene met the residency requirements. The district attorney stated in a written statement that the judges of the family court must have the same qualifications as the judges of the district court, which means that they must have lived in the judicial district or in the parish for a year prior to the election.
Section III, Section D of the Family Court shares a voting area with Section A and comprises the lower south-western part of the municipality. It is generally bounded on the west by the Mississippi, on the south by the Parish Line, Bayou Fountain Avenue, Siegen and Stumberg Alleys, and on North Sherwood Forest Drive and Government Street and Greenwell Springs Road on the north.
The family court handles cases such as alimony, custody, divorce, joint property due to divorce, and orders to limit domestic violence.
Greene's campaign platforms are that he obey the law, not pass laws from the bank. Take care of the children's welfare. hold dead parents accountable; be efficient in hearing cases; and be respectful, courteous, and accessible to all parties.
"The decision of cases is based on the facts and the law," said the court's current chief judge.
Benoit pledged to respect and treat anyone who appears in court; Make decisions according to the law, which is applied to the facts and not according to personal opinions; and ensure that families feel supported, informed, heard and understood as they leave the family court.
"People really want to feel understood, to be heard," she said.
Early voting for the election is scheduled for October 16-27, with the exception of Sunday October 18-25.