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Monday, Feb. 15, 2016

‘Verge of Transition’

Caraway defends seat on Second Circuit Court of Appeals

As this is a year of elections, seeing another one surface shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But a challenge to the seat held by Judge Jay Caraway on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal is a surprise given the overwhelming esteem in which he’s held by the legal community and beyond.

The challenge comes from Bossier-Webster District Judge Jeff Cox who recently announced his intention to run for Caraway’s seat. The Nov. 9 election will include voters in nine North Louisiana parishes including Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Union, Lincoln, Caldwell, Bienville, Jackson and Winn.

Caraway was generous with his time to visit about his two-decade tenure on the court as well as reasons for voters to return him to his judicial seat. “I think that there’s a couple of reasons. No. 1, our court is on the verge of some transition. We just lost Judge Stewart; we have two or three other members that are term-limited at this point. Judge [Henry] Brown and Judge [Harmon] Drew are in their last terms – from the Bossier-Webster area, and so I think that my experience is still needed on the court. And most importantly, you don’t do anything … in a Court of Appeal setting unless you have camaraderie with the people that you have there, and we get along well. We disagree at times, but we get along well and therefore, the experience that I do have as one of the senior judges – third in line behind Judge Brown, Judge Williams, and then myself – is important for what we do,” Caraway said.

“The more you have seen, the more you understand the entanglements that come before us and on how to work through the law and get to the better answer.”

Caraway also pointed to his level of experience. He said, “I love being a lawyer; I love working with the law, and this gives me the opportunity to do that in an important capacity. That’s why I want to still do it – so all of those things combined.”

He elaborated on his experience starting with 15 years at the Blanchard, Walker, O’Quin & Roberts law firm. “It was an interesting situation in 1996, there was no district judge from the 26th Judicial

District Court in Bossier and Webster that was running for it, so I gave it a shot and went straight up. Of course, Judge Brown did the same thing – went straight from the DA’s office … the district judge experience is important, but it’s no longer essential given everything I’ve seen for 20 years.

“And, No. 2: I’ve tried enough cases that I understood the critical issues that come up that a trial judge sees. And so I never thought that was a disadvantage in any way.”

During his tenure, Caraway – as a court member – has decided approximately 2,500 cases. He is a 1980 graduate of LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center where he graduated with honors, earning membership in the Order of the Coif on graduating in the Top 10 percent of his class. He was appointed by the Supreme Court to serve on the Judiciary Committee, which deals with judicial ethics issues and he was invited to serve as an adjunct professor at the LSU.

Caraway looks on his time at the court as service, but community involvement extends beyond his judicial duties.

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“I think it’s mainly through the church, through the Lions Club here. And I do a lot of work now with the Methodist church in Louisiana in terms of issues that come up for their property matters around the state. I can’t get involved in a disputed setting, but I am the Chair of the Trustees (Louisiana Annual Conference of United Methodist Church), so I do a lot of work there.”

He also discussed his views on gun rights saying, “I say this in terms of hunting and fishing and stuff. When I was in middle school living in Homer, and then coming back to Claiborne Parish and meeting my wife and her father, the values of the rural area in terms of hunting, and then on Lake Claiborne, the fishing – yes, I’m pretty avid about that. I understand how that’s a part of our culture. People worry about our Second Amendment rights – I am glad the U.S. Supreme Court has had recent rulings that recognize our personal rights. Of course, I’ve got a good favorite shotgun and a favorite deer rifle, and I’m good with our use of safety and guns.”

Caraway made a number of other points in our visit but encouraged Forum readers to ask their own attorneys about his professional reputation, service and dedication to his legal and judicial career. And voters interested in getting a head start on becoming more familiar with Caraway will want to visit his very informative website at judgejaycaraway.com.

Next, a visit with District Judge Jeff Cox about his appeal court aspirations.

Marty Carlson, a freelance writer, has been covering local news for the past 17 years. She can be reached via email at martycarlson1218@

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