Three candidates have qualified for the November 8, 2022 election for Lafayette City Court Judge: Jules Edwards, III, Roya Boustany and Toby Aguillard. Each candidate seeks to fill the seat vacated by Judge Michelle Odinet following her resignation from office in December of 2021.
Prior to the resignation of Judge Odinet the operations of the Lafayette City Court had been called into question including the use of court funds to lease vehicles for judges who don’t have to travel to several courts and don’t reside long distances from the courthouse. The use of public funds for extravagant staff meetings was also being looked into and a grim picture of Judge Doug Saloom, not displayed in his personal art collection at City Court, was being painted. Since that time suit has been filed against Saloom by LCG for failing to turn over public records but was recently dismissed.
When it comes to the three candidates there are some interesting things you should know and consider before you cast your ballot. Whether good, bad or ugly… is left for you to determine.
Jules Edwards, III
Edwards who lost his bid for the seat to Michelle Odinet in 2020, announced on January 12, 2022 that he would be running for Judge with the Lafayette City Court again. Odinet resigned from office after allegations were made with regards to her ability to remain impartial following a video that was posted containing language which can be heard in most rap songs.
Edwards is no stranger to the criminal justice system in Lafayette Parish. Edwards was a public defender, Assistant District Attorney and served as a District Judge from 1993 until his retirement in 2020. At his announcement Edwards was quoted as saying: “Because we always said that experience matters and qualifications matter. I want to use them to help heal this community.”
Edwards, who is running as a “no party” candidate, according to the Lafayette Registrar of Voters registered to vote in 1988 as a Democrat. Edwards switched to an “Independent” in 2004, changed to “None” in 2010, before selecting “No Party” in 2018.
According to his campaign finance report Edwards raised $95,885.00 through September 29, 2022. Noteworthy contributions were received from Jubilee Development, which previously contributed to the campaigns of Carlee Alm-Labar and Bruce Conque; IMDiversity of New Orleans, which has made contributions to Mayor Latoya Cantrell; and TPG, PAC, which has funded Conrad Comeaux, Gerald Boudreaux, Royce Duplessis, Leadership for Louisiana, Stuart Bishop/Bishop PAC and Jean Paul Coussan/Cousson PAC.
During his tenure as Judge, Edwards settled a lawsuit filed by a former employee alleging racial discrimination. According to information obtained a Case Manager for the 15th Judicial District Court Adult Drug Program, supervised and managed by Judge Edwards filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. In that complaint the Case Worker alleged she was discharged from employment in 2015 after reporting “race related tension” in the office. The claimant, who is white, alleged her supervisor would complain about “white people” and “ignore white employees”. The claimant also alleges the use of “the “N” word” and that she was told to ‘cover her ears if she was offended.’ That claim was settled by Judge Edwards on behalf of the 15th Judicial District Court.
On a different note, If there is anyone who knows how to put Saloom in time out it may be Edwards. Aside from his judicial experience with the operation of a court he is deserving of honorable mention for silencing a Saloom. During an insanity hearing concerning Judge Saloom’s cousin, C.J. Saloom, Jr., Judge Edwards ordered the defendant to be gagged with electrical tape for interrupting the proceedings. Something that Judge Marilyn Castle was criticized for just two years ago. As a Judge, Edwards has long held the reputation of working long hours and tolerating little non-sense. If elected, be sure to pop a bag of popcorn. Court days are almost assured to filled with plenty of entertainment.
The second candidate to announce their bid for Lafayette City Court Judge was Roya Boustany back on January 25, 2022. Many true conservatives, reminded of RINO Senator Charles Boustany, have taken the position that they would never trust another Boustany in public office. While the knee jerk reaction which is a subconscious response generated by saying “Boustany” out-loud is hard to overcome for many. Each person should be judged individually.
According to records at the Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters office, on January 4, 2022, just twenty-one days prior to her announcement Boustany changed her party registration to Republican. Boustany who originally registered to vote as a Democrat in 2006 switched her party affiliation to “no party” in 2011. Coupled with a campaign slogan that’s reminiscent of leftish social equity overtones (“Justice Matters”) people could definitively be asking whether this is an attempt to ride a red wave into office.
Boustany previously worked at the Public Defender’s Office of the 16th Judicial District before taking a position as an Assistant District Attorney for the 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette. On the campaign trail, Boustany has frequently mentioned her experience as a prosecutor and referencing the topic of victims rights. While victim rights are important, the rights of all involved should be equally respected. After all, if justice really matters, shouldn’t it matter for all involved? Does anyone in America today really believe that justice doesn’t matter?
The position of judge requires someone who can exhibit fairness, impartiality, and an ability to apply the law appropriately. All too often former prosecutors have some difficulty separating themselves from their former role, and have ended up serving as a second prosecutor from the bench.
Boustany has significantly outpaced her two competitors in the race in terms of campaign contributions. According to her campaign finance report Boustany raised $141,746.01 through September 29, 2022. Expenditures by the Boustany camp are interesting in that at least four different organizations have received money for various consulting and fundraising work. These organization include $23,500 for Prosper Group out of Indiana. Centanni Communications, which has worked on the campaigns Stuart Bishop, Kathleen Blanco, Marilyn Castle, Nanette Cook and Jean Paul Coussan, received $15,000. The Desormeaux Group has received over $13,000 and has worked with candidates Carlee Alm-Labar, Stuart Bishop/Bishop PAC, Marilyn Castle, Nanette Cook, Clay Schexnayder and Jean Paul Coussan. Lastly, Parish Consulting Group was paid $10,000 by the Boustany Camp. This organization was previously retained by Jules Edwards in his 2020 bid against Michelle Odinet for Lafayette City Court Judge.
Boustany, if elected, will probably not experience the same criticisms Odinet faced from Judge Douglas Saloom during her short time in office. According to public records, Saloom reportedly would “yell and shout” at Odinet, abruptly hang-up on her, refer to her as a “little lady” or his “work wife” and make remarks such as “you are dripping in money.” But the Lafayette City Court relationship could get complicated given the “all in the family” dynamics. You see, Saloom is the second cousin of Boustany’s father-in-law. Hopefully, the whole family won’t be dining out using the City Court expense account.
Toby Aguillard became the third candidate to announce his bid for Lafayette City Court Judge on April 12, 2022. Formerly the Lafayette City Police Chief, Aguillard presently works for the Garr Lawfirm where he has been involved in litigation against his former employer, Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government. In addition to the filing of a civil rights suit against LCG, which since has been settled, Aguillard is also responsible for filing an EEOC complaint against LCG and former interim Chief of Police Wayne Griffin. Those are usually the precursor to a federal employment discrimination suit. Griffin was appointed interim Chief of Police in October of 2021 only to be placed on Administrative Leave approximately two weeks later, pending an investigation. That investigation resulted in Chief Griffin being terminated. Griffin subsequently appealed that matter to the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board and was reinstated earlier this month. The alleged victim of sexual harassment, Bridget Dugas, has since filed suit in state court. However, according to the pleadings is no longer represented by Aguillard.
The majority of criminal cases prosecuted before the Lafayette City Court involve arrest and citations made by members of the Lafayette Police Department. If elected to the bench one can only wonder what the dynamics will be like in City Court. Many officers formerly supervised by Aguillard would be taking the stand and offering testimony before him in a court of law. Will Aguillard’s relationship, good or bad, with former officers impact his decisions? Will Aguillard take the bench having personal knowledge of the misdeeds of officers, such as those alleged in his recent civil filings and complaints filed by CNLA with civil service? Would his prior knowledge impact the outcome of his decisions?
Aguillard’s resume indicates he has spent most of his career in various government law enforcement roles. His law enforcement career began in 1988 when he worked part-time as a Sheriff’s deputy while attending school. Aguillard also worked for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office before becoming the Chief of Police of Lafayette. He served as Chief of Police in the City of Lafayette between 2016 and 2020, before being squeezed out of office by Mayor-President Joshua Guillory. Guillory indicated that Aguillard’s poor relationship with Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber prompted his need to depart, along with $70,000.00 in taxpayer funds Aguillard was given as a settlement of any and all claims.
Aguillard has only amassed $31,535.00 in contributions, trailing well behind the other two candidates in fundraising. This is despite him retaining Metacom, an organization run by local political campaign consultant Joe Castille, according to his campaign finance report.
This is not Aguillard’s first bid for elected public office. Aguillard unsuccessfully ran a campaign for Sheriff of Cameron Parish in 1999. He was one of three Democratic candidates seeking the office, finishing last with only 19% of the vote. According to the Lafayette Registrar of Voters Aguillard was registered to vote as a Democrat from 2018 until 2020 when he changed his registration to Republican.
More recently, Aguillard secured the only endorsement for City Court Judge from the Lafayette Republican Parish Executive Committee. This is the genuine, certified, bonafide Lafayette RPEC. Not the fake Facebook page entitled “Lafayette Republicans” which was converted to private use by Denice Skinner, who has since been excommunicated from the RPEC.
“The good”, “the bad” and “the ugly” is subject to the eye of the beholder. Choose carefully in the upcoming election.