I wanna know: Is Division A a family court? - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

I wanna know: Is Division A a family court?

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Political signs are beginning to pop up everywhere -- a sure sign the fall elections are rapidly approaching, but there's confusion about one office coming up for a vote.

State District Judge Division A is being vacated by longtime Judge Kent Savoie, who's running for appeal court. There's confusion about the Division A position, because one candidate's signs say district judge, family court. The other two candidates campaign signs read simply, judge or district judge.

Chief Judge David Ritchie says the nine judges of the 14th Judicial District Court have voted, and Division A will handle family and juvenile court.

"In March of last year, the court designated Division A to be a full time family and juvenile court division, effective January 1 of 2015," said Ritchie.

There has been no legislation making the change, but Ritchie says the issue has been litigated before, and the judges have the authority to do what they've done.

"There's a specific state law that allows us, allows a court, allows our court specifically to designate certain divisions of court to handle certain types of matters such as family and juvenile cases, drug courts, criminal, civil, what have you," said Ritchie.

Of the nine state district judges in Calcasieu, two have been full time family and juvenile court: Lilynn Cutrer and Guy Bradberry. Ritchie says another judge is needed, as determined by the judicial council.

"When we applied for a 10th judgeship, we were unsuccessful, but the judicial council, although they all recognized we had a higher than average caseload, we didn't quite meet the benchmark to be eligible for a new judgeship, but what they saw when they were here doing their study was that family and juvenile court, those two judges, had a higher caseload than we had and that their's was higher than the threshold," said Ritchie.

"Rather than give us a new judge for family and juvenile court, they told us that we needed to participate and help in family court, and they recommended that we assign a third judge to assist in family and juvenile court, and then Louisiana Supreme Court adopted that recommendation and they ordered us to resolve that issue," said Ritchie.

Here's how they plan to divvy up the duties in January:

"Judge Bradberry will be handling 1/7 of all the criminal cases, so that the other six of us don't have to absorb that caseload. Then, division A and Division I will each be handling 50 percent of all the juvenile cases, and then Division C, which is Judge Bradberry; I, which is Judge Cutrer, and A, which would be the newly elected judge; will each be handling one third of all the family court cases," said Ritchie.

Though what the judges vote to do they can vote to change if the majority so chooses. Qualifying for state district judge and other offices is August 20-22.

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