At least four judges on the 12-member Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal will retire at the end of their current terms — one at the end of this year and three more at the end of 2011. Elections to succeed all four retiring judges, plus a re-election bid by a fifth judge, will be in October. Court observers say this will be the largest turnover at the 4th Circuit in decades.
The four retiring incumbents are Chief Judge Joan Bernard Armstrong and Judges Patricia Murray of New Orleans, Michael Kirby of Plaquemines Parish and David Gorbaty of St. Bernard Parish. Incumbent Judge Roland Belsome of New Orleans will run for re-election. Qualifying is July 7-9. The primary is Oct. 2, and runoffs, if needed, will be Nov. 2.
The 4th Circuit hears appeals of trial court decisions from Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. Ten of the 12 appellate judges run from districts comprising their home parishes, and two run at-large in all three parishes. Armstrong and Murray's districts are two of eight in New Orleans; Gorbaty's is the sole St. Bernard district; and Kirby's is the only Plaquemines district. Belsome's seat is one of the two at-large spots.
Murray's retirement has triggered the most interest thus far, particularly among sitting district judges. Those eyeing her seat include Civil District Court Judges Madeleine Landrieu, Herbert Cade, Robin Giarrusso and Sidney Cates IV, as well as Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens.
In Plaquemines, District Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano of Belle Chasse, who was elected without opposition in 2008, has announced her intention to run for Kirby's appellate seat.
Through an anomaly in state election law, whoever wins the seats held by Armstrong, Murray and Kirby will have to wait more than a year to take the appellate bench because those judges' terms don't end until Dec. 31, 2011. State law requires judicial elections to coincide with congressional elections, which puts some of them on the ballot this October and November — at least 14 months before the current terms end.
By contrast, Gorbaty's term runs out at the end of this year, so his successor will take the bench next Jan. 1. Those interested in running for his seat include attorney Danny Dysart and District Judge Jacques Sanborn, both of St. Bernard.
Belsome's current term also ends on Dec. 31, 2011. So far, no names have been mentioned as potential opponents. Belsome previously served at Civil District Court, starting in 1997, then won his appellate seat in 2004.
Appellate judges serve 10-year terms. — Clancy DuBos