Opinions positive on newly re-elected judge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 2010



LAPLACE – After months of pounding the pavement on the campaign trail, newly re-elected Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jude Gravois took a moment to reflect on his first year-and-a-half on the appeals panel.

“At first I saw it as a challenge, but it has really been a smooth transition for me,” said Gravois, who, prior to taking office in April 2009, had previously spent 30 years as an attorney in St. James Parish. “I’m looking forward to getting back into the busier part of the appeals cycle.”

Gravois, 56, is about to begin his first full 10-year term as court of appeals judge representing St. James and the east bank of St. John the Baptist parishes. The Vacherie native was the overwhelming favorite in the Oct. 2 election that pitted him against LaPlace attorney Daniel E. Becnel. Gravois said campaigning this time around was much easier because of his activity in the community.

“I know so many more people in St. John that I didn’t know before,” Gravois said. “Getting into the LaPlace Lions and Rotary Clubs really helped me get involved more in St. John. We just ran another grassroots campaign that was well received in both parishes.”

The Vacherie resident takes over for former Judge Tom Daley, who left the court of appeals to become District Attorney for St. John Parish. Gravois said Daley played a big role in helping him transition from attorney to judge.

“He gave me a real understanding of what I was up against in taking the position,” Gravois said of Daley. “He explained that it would likely take about a year to really understand all aspects of the position.”

Gravois is one of eight judges who make up the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Six represent Jefferson Parish, one represents St. Charles Parish and the west bank of St. John, and Gravois represents the east bank of St. John and St. James. The panel handles appeals in a wide variety of criminal and civil cases.

Gravois explained that each case gets a three-judge panel that hears arguments and renders a final decision. Although the panel meets together in court, he said all three make an effort to stay independent when breaking down the case.

“Judges are all pretty opinionated,” Gravois said. “Each one wants a chance to express his or her own thoughts on a particular case. Our job is to ensure that justice is done.”

In order for a case to be overturned, Gravois said there must be unanimous agreement from all three judges on the panel. If no agreement can be made, the case becomes a five-judge panel, and the majority determines how the appeal plays out.

“There is lots of reading and lots of writing, which I am extremely fond of,” Gravois said. “I like to make sure my writing is precise, concise and persuasive so that it is easy to understand.

Gravois said a large portion of the cases the court of appeals handles are upheld, but there is still the occasional reversal. He said the lower court judges in the circuit do an excellent job of getting the case right the first time.

“We are the rules court,” Gravois said. “We simply make sure that the rulings in the lower court were made appropriately. We have to be very careful in our opinions because we are setting a precedent for other cases that may follow. It is challenging work but it is intellectually stimulating.”

Outside of the courtroom, Gravois spends a large amount of time working in his yard. He is an avid LSU football and baseball fan and also enjoys his fair share of fishing.