Daley leaves lofty post to enter race

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – For most professionals, the road to success goes upward.

That has been the case for St. John Parish Judge Tom Daley, who was previously a judge in the 40th Judicial District Court in the early 90s before winning a seat as the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judge, where he served the past 12 years. Daley was then named “Jurist of the Year” by the Louisiana Bar Association in April of 2008.

So it may seem surprising to see Daley announce his intent to run for the St. John district attorney position in the coming fall election, meaning he has resigned his position as a state appeals court judge.

Daley confirmed to L’Observateur this week that he is entering the race for St. John District Attorney, with the primary election set for October 4.

To Daley, the move back to local government is hardly a step down, but rather, an opportunity to get to the grass roots of improving life in St. John Parish for all.

“I’ve been a public servant for the last 24 years and I’ve become very dissatisfied watching the district attorney’s office, and how it is operating,” he said. “If I am elected district attorney, I will have a real chance to improve our community in an important way.”

Daley said he sees a serious problem with what he calls “the revolving door of criminals who are arrested, but quickly back on our streets to commit more crime.”

He has a five-point plan to stop the problem in St. John Parish, beginning with a strong probation program that is focused on helping first-time offenders so they don’t keep going back to a life of crime.

His plan for improvement in the office is as follows:

Provide tighter and immediate supervision for first time offenders on probation.

Seek long prison sentences for repeat offenders—three strikes and you’re out.

Move to immediately revoke bond for offenders who commit crimes while awaiting trial.

Shorten the time delay between arrest and prosecution—fast-track trial dates for career criminals.

Work with the State Department of Corrections to intensity job training and rehabilitation efforts before prisoners are released from jail.

Daley is not just interested in “locking them up and throwing away the key,” but believes a much improved effort with the first offenders will eventually reduce those criminals from coming back so often.

“We are not adequately trying to correct these first-time criminals and we’ve got to pay more attention to first offenders,” he said. “The biggest flaw in the correction department is that they aren’t doing much correcting.”

Daley used the scenario of a typical first-time offender as an example.

“That is usually an 18-year-old who might get arrested for selling marijuana,” he said. “Typically they get five years probation, but presently it takes 30 to 45 days before they ever have their first correction department meeting.

“I want the effects of going to court to be immediate. I plan to have the probation hearing for that first-time offender to be the same day they go to court, so they can understand what they have to do, and see the penalty for what they have done,” he noted. “If we begin there, it will lessen the repeat offenders.”

As for those criminals who prove that they don’t want to be rehabilitated, and continue to commit crimes and come through the court system, “I will utilize the enhancement penalties against them and get much tougher on those criminals. I will also make prosecution of the career criminals a priority, and move them up the calendar so we get them into court and get them to prison.”

Daley said he plans to work with the state corrections department to intensity job training so criminals coming out of prison have a better chance of fitting back in society, and surviving without having to turn to crime to do so.

“My entire approach to the district attorney’s job is to tighten the process all the way around,” he said. “There have been some attacks lately on one branch of the system against the other, but the finger pointing does no good. We need more effort by everyone to improve what is happening here.”

Daley is currently facing two announced candidates for the D.A.’s position, as St. John attorney Kerry Brown, and local attorney Fred DeFrancesch have both told L’Observateur they will be entering the race, when qualifying occurs beginning July 9.

St. John Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux was reportedly considering a run for the D.A.’s position, L’Observateur learned, but changed his mind last week and said he will now support Daley for the position.

Daley believes his 30 years of legal experience, especially backed by the past 12 years when he was an appeals court judge who reviewed over 500 criminals convictions, sets him apart from any other challengers to the position.

“I offer my time, my talents and my pledge to work tirelessly to serve and protect the people of our parish. I have a plan to stop the revolving door and the experience, energy, and work ethic to get it done as your district attorney. I will roll up my sleeves, go to work and make a difference,” he explained.

Daley holds a Masters degree in law from the University of Virginia School of Law, after graduating from Loyola University School of Law. He got his B.A. from Rutgers University.

He has been very involved in St. John community projects, such as starting what is now the Keep St. John Beautiful Committee, while also being involved with the Knights of Columbus, the Andouille Festival, Belle Terre Civic Association, Get High on Life, the Lake Maurepas Society and the St. John 4-H Foundation.

“My background shows that my work ethic is probably my best asset, as well as my ability to work with other people,” he said. “People in this parish are not threatened by me, but know I’m a person who can get others to work together. That’s what we need in our criminal justice system and I know I can get this system fixed.

“When considering candidates for the district attorney’s position, I hope the residents here will consider which candidates have dedicated themselves to public projects in St. John,” he explained. “If someone evaluates my record, I think they will see I have made a difference in St. John, and I know I can do it as the district attorney as well.”

Daley has taught legal classes at Delgado Community College and serves as a lecturer for the Louisiana Bar Association, and the Louisiana Judicial College. He is the author of “Louisiana Law on Lawyering” and “A Practical Digest of Louisiana Class Action Decisions.”

Daley and his wife of 26 years, Margaret, are the parents of two daughters, Bernadette and Monique. They are parishioners of St. Joan of Arc Church where he serves as a Catechism instructor.