Voters in St. Martin, St. Mary, and Iberia parishes will select a District Attorney next month. A former 16th Judicial District judge is running to unseat the incumbent.
Q: What are your qualifications?
Incumbent Bo Duhe: "28 years of doing this job. I've been in the DA's office nearly 28 years. I began in 1993. As an assistant DA handling misdemeanors, worked my way up to handling major felonies, capital murder cases. I became the first assistant under the previous DA. Ran in 2014, fortunately was unopposed at the time, took office in 2015. Committed my whole to public service. My whole legal career to working as an Assistant DA and now the DA."
Retired Judge Lori Landry: "First of all, I think I am the most qualified candidate. I am the candidate that comes with eight and a half years in the DA's office, 18 years on the bench, I've seen it from all perspectives. I'm the candidate that has the courage to take on the hard questions so that we can move forward, and make our communities safer, better for everyone."
Q: Why should the people elect you?
Duhe: "If you look at my track record. If you run into anyone that I have interacted with professionally or personally, ask them how was their experience, and I think that people will find that people find me to be very reasonable, very accessible, fair, and empathetic in handling the cases I deal with. I think that folds well on what we do. In our line of work we have a whole spectrum of cases that come before us."
Landry: "I was in the DA's office for eight and a half years before I went to the bench, so I was a prosecutor. I know what prosecutors are supposed to do. I was prosecuting sex offenses, so I handled the most sensitive of cases and victims, so I know what's expected of us. Then after that I went to the bench for 18 years, saw it and other things from a different perspective. I have a varied amount of experiences, not just from one perspective, I also bring the perspective of the community."
Q: Is there an issue in the system right now that you hope you can change being in an office?
Duhe: "There's always issues. One of the biggest issues we have right now is people who have addictions. When people are arrested in the three parish district, we generally have them tested for amphetamines, methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, a variety of drugs, and generally over 70 percent are positive. So that tells you that's a big driver for addiction, drugs, and alcohol. We deal with it in our district at the very first drug court started in Louisiana. We started in St. Mary in 1995, modeled it after drug courts in Florida. They exist today in all three parishes. They're able to give help to that individual, that helps cure the problem, that cures the motivation behind the crime. It may be stealing to support a habit. Also on the horizon is mental health. Mental health is a huge issue in the system. The problem is there is nowhere to provide treatment, it's very limited. We would be great to have a greater number of state funded or state facilities available for people to get the help they need."
Landry: "The issue that all of America knows, not just America, the world knows. That we have systemic, foundational issues in our criminal justice system and all of our bureaucratic systems. We know from which these systems came, we absolutely know that all these constitutional amendments and the laws, which Louisiana functions, came as a result of us slaves being freed. Came as a result of reconstruction. Reconstruction happened right here, we had soldiers from the union right here. We had elected officials who were people of color doing reconstruction right here from St. Martin Parish. One of them my family members. But when the soldiers left, the laws that replaced reconstruction and the ideals of a country are the laws that are the root of our criminal justice system. And we know it. Now its time to dial back those laws and apply them, the ones we can't change, in a way that it's fair and just for everybody. While I can't legislate laws, I hold my legislatures accountable though, for legislating good laws. And if a law is bad, as a DA I do not have to apply that statue, absolutely do not have to file cases on a law that I think are lacking equity, lacking justice, and produces unequal results in our community."
In 2019 DA Bo Duhe's office filed more than 300 recusal motions against Judge Lori Landry. In 2020 she left the bench.
Q: Do you believe you (Bo Duhe) are the reason behind her resignation? When you (Lori Landry) resigned was it because of the recusal motions from your opponent's office?
Duhe: No, I'm not really the person to ask. Judge Landry is the person to ask. I don't think I'm responsible for that. I was filing a motion that the law allows me to file. That is recognized when I didn't think we were getting a fair shake. By we I'm talking me, but in particular the victims of the crime we represent. So there's a vehicle to do that. And that was a motion to recuse. I executed what was legally available for me. How that affected her retirement, you'll have to ask her."
Landry: "Well let's get factually correct. Mr. Duhe is the District Attorney, there was not an election when he came on. He didn't actually sign those motions to recuse. Mr. Rob Vines, so he is ultimately responsible. They complained about things that was about my integrity. They complained about things that I called into question, the things that were being done wrong and things being done wrong in the system. They later dismissed all those claims, after they said all they could say about me knowing I was not a participant. But God put lawyers who had clients in the way to say no, this is not the proper venue. They know it was not the proper venue. They chose that venue so I wouldn't have a voice. Not counting on the intervention of clients saying we have the right to have a fair judge. While we have known each other all of our lives, we have come up together, and it looks like our conditionals are the same, our perspectives are different. I said let's start anew. I retired after having 18 years on the bench, 18 years 7 months, 20 days on the bench. Through that process and all my elections, God was able to tell me, 'I have something else for you. will you go?' And I said, 'Here I am, Lord. Send me.'"
According to their election websites:
- New Iberia native. Father was lawyer, state district judge, us district judge, 5th circuit appeal judge
- UL and Tulane Law grad.
- Began career clerking for judge in the district, joined DA office in 1993. Has worked there ever since.
- First elected as the DA in 2015.
- 28 years of experience protecting the families in our three parishes.
- "For each and every case, I carefully listen to both sides to ensure that when a crime is committed, justice is fair and equitable."
- NISH grad, UL grad, Southern Law
- First African American female ADA in 16th JDC, 8.5 years.
- Sex crime and drug court prosecutions
- Elected district judge, first AA Female, only second female in district, 2002.
- Chief Judge in 2005
- Volunteer juvenile court judge in St. Martin parish
- " I want people to consider me for the chief law enforcement officer of this district not because of my race but because of my history for honesty, integrity and fairness in every role that I have held in the legal system."
To find out more about these candidates visit their websites.