Vicknair makes Magistrate bid
26th August 2013 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
The longtime head of the Orleans Alliance for Good Government, Mark Vicknair, in years of evaluating and endorsing candidates, had never expressed an interest for any of the judicial seats that came open, at least so his friends said. Then, a few months ago, suddenly, the local attorney began to tell his intimates that he wanted to run for Magistrate Court.
Once they got past their surprise, typically, they had two responses. ‘What’s Magistrate Court’, and ‘We elect people to that?’
To the latter, Vicknair acknowledged that part of the reason for the latter is that no one had run against the incumbent judge in decades, but as to the former, he explained in an interview, “The Magistrate Judge oversees Magistrate Court and the functioning of the four Magistrate Commissioners. The court is responsible for setting bonds, signing warrants, presiding over probable cause hearings, and for the Magistrate Judge presiding over misdemeanor trials.”
As to why this office, and not any other court, Vicknair pointed out that he is one of the few attorney’s in town with enough of a background to do the job.
“I was in Magistrate Court with Judge Hansen as the Public Defender from 1997 until 2005,” he said. “I have thought about running for the position for years, but did not think it would be possible. When Judge Hansen announced his retirement, I decided to run because I truly feel that I am the most qualified person for this job.”
The election is October 19, and Vicknair stands on three principal campaign planks. First, “Implement a program for warrants to be handled electronically. Currently police have to track down the judge or magistrate, and physically go to their house with a paper copy of the warrant application. This makes no sense in this day and age when we could very easily be doing this online.”
Second, “Be available at all times for the signing of warrants. Crime never sleeps, and often police need warrant applications signed at all hours of the night. Some are very time sensitive and need to be acted upon immediately, and I promise to be available.”
And, third, “Use pretrial services to help set bonds effectively, especially for low-level, non-violent offenders. Pretrial risk assessment is a tool in the belt for a judge to use to set bonds. Pretrial services can aid judges in assessing the risk of failure to appear: the staff interviews defendants and looks at their record, work history, employment, family situation and other factors. I have very little sympathy for violent offenders, but for the low level, non-violent offenders, jail is not always the best solution.”
Vicknair noted that the biggest problem in Magistrate Court right now is the “Lack of programs to help first time offenders, or non-violent offenders.”
“Some of these could be set up for free, he observed, “with use of volunteers to get individuals into work training programs. We could team individuals up with retired carpenters, plumbers etc., to expose them to possible careers in those fields.”
Reflecting on his civic activities, and how they prepared him for the bench, he concluded, “As you know I am the immediate past president of the Alliance for Good Government. For the last five years I organized almost every election forum that the Alliance has had. In conducting these forums I always tried to be fair to all participants, Black or white, Democrat, Republican or Independent, because I thought that it was important for these people to have a fair chance to present themselves and their views to the public. I had to be harsh with a few individuals who would not follow the forum rules, and would not answer to questions presented. I believe these experiences will help me to become a great judge.”
This article originally published in the August 26, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.