Election 2017: Chase vs. Brown for La. Appellate Court seat
6th March 2017 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
The special election on March 25, 2017 to fill the open Division C seat on Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal may constitute one of the hardest choices Orleans Parish voters have had to confront in years. Two evenly matched Orleans Civil Court Judges contend to succeed the retiring Dennis Bagneris—Tiffany Chase and Paula Brown.
Both have served at the Bar and on the Bench in excess of two decades. Both have earned extensive legal honors in the careers, with Juris Doctorates from Loyola and Southern Universities respectively. Both have innovated elements of the local courts while serving on the bench. Judge Chase created the first Self Help Desk at Civil District Court which assists unrepresented parties navigate the judicial system. To date, more than 10,000 people have been served at the Help Desk by volunteer lawyers. Judge Brown started mentorship programs for newly elected judges and newly admitted attorneys, through her CLE work, earning her in 2005, the City Business Leadership in Law Award.
This special election has come down to a difference of focus. Chase has emphasized her experience writing opinions of the higher court level, the main work of an Appelate Judge, while Brown has contended that her public role as a ‘fair arbiter’ on the bench has better prepared her for this powerful position on the state’s Court of Review.
Judge Chase, who began her legal career as a judicial law clerk at the Louisiana Supreme Court, noted her greater experience with reviewing rulings in cases. “That’s the main work of the Court of Appeals,” she maintained. In her tenure of seven years at Louisiana’s highest court, Judge Chase reviewed cases on all aspects of law which come before the Fourth Circuit- criminal law, civil law, family law, and domestic violence—to name a few, and she wrote hundreds of opinions in those cases.
“My diverse legal career has prepared me to seek a promotion to the Court of Appeal,” she said. “The appellate court reviews decisions of the trial court and it must determine the correctness of the trial court’s decisions. I have served as a trial court judge, making decisions and ruling in accordance with the facts and law presented. Trials are intricate and require immediacy. By contrast, appellate court decisions allow for more deliberative review and greater analysis of the law. Having worked for the state’s highest court and served as a judge for nearly a decade, my perspective and abilities have provided me with a strong foundation to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. I would be honored to be elected to such a prestigious court.”
Brown, who has the endorsements of the AFL-CIO and the Orleans Parish Democratic Party, counters that her deliberative reputation as a fair jurist stands as the paramount virtue in deciding an Appellate Court Judge. “A judge follows the letter of the law…But, a good judge follows the spirit of the law as well.”
To meet people where they are “is a trait I picked up as a basketball player, very early on,” Brown explained in an interview with The Louisiana Weekly. Her experience as a former Tulane women’s basketball star helped develop the “discernment” the conditions of people’s lives, from a variety of backgrounds.
That multiplicity of experiences proved an invaluable asset upon assuming the CDC bench, and Brown believes it will serve her as well as an Appellate Judge should she win election on March 25 – along with her thorough knowledge of the statutory code and case law. After all, Judge Brown also serves as an adjunct professor on those legal topics at SUNO.
Brown’s “discernment” of the challenges facing the average person is further bolstered — in her view — by the CDC Judge’s extensive non-legal civic resumé, including, her work as a board member of Louisiana Apple-seed, Louisiana Heat Foundation, and I.N.S.P.I.R.E., RR, Inc. (Increase Student Performance in Reading Excel-lence, Rewards Recognition). She also has served on the Advisory Board of Armstrong Family Services and as a member of 100 Black Women.
More than anything else, Brown credits her public struggle on breast cancer awareness as key to her judicial empathy. A breast cancer survivor, Judge Brown is a former board member of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, New Orleans Affiliate, and received the Susan G. Komen Survivor of the Year Award.
Perhaps the most difficult element of the contest between Tiffany Chase and Paula Brown is how much each respects the other. Both have publically AND privately praised one another, often speaking of their personal friendship. In an era overwrought with political mudslinging, not a negative word has emerged from either campaign about the other. In fact, both Chase and Brown have said the other would make an excellent Appellate Judge. For the electorate, their mutual admiration is both reassuring in this contentious political era, and yet, also makes the choice in the voting booth even harder.
Early voting is March 11-17, with election-day the following Saturday, March 25.
This article originally published in the March 6, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.