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Judge Jasmine retires after 30 years on the bench

EDGARD – The Honorable Madeline Jasmine became the first African American judge for the 40th Judicial District Court when she was elected in 1990. After 30 years of serving the community from the Division A seat, Jasmine is hanging up her robe and heading into a well-deserved retirement.

Elected officials and longtime friends gathered at the Edgard Courthouse Monday afternoon for a surprise ceremony commemorating Jasmine’s retirement from the bench. The heartfelt ceremony was followed by a drive-thru parade attended by many community members.

Jasmine was also the first African American Assistant District Attorney appointed to the 29th and 40th Judicial Districts. She is credited with establishing the 49th Judicial District Drug Court program in St John Parish. Additionally, she is the recipient of many awards and honors and has been a member of several law councils and associations throughout her judicial career.

While her accomplishments speak for themselves, those who attended Monday’s ceremony made it clear that the longtime judge’s impact has come from her mentorship, humility, approachability and fierce leadership.

The Honorable Regina Bartholomew Woods of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal first worked as a judicial law clerk for Jasmine 21 years ago. She never imagined Jasmine would become her mentor, confidant and beloved friend.

“Under her leadership and direction, I learned how to have an even-keeled, deliberate and Christian-based judicial outlook and temperament on the bench, because that is who she is and has been on the bench,” Woods said. “She never took lightly her anointed role as judge, where she has always served as a humble servant leader.”

Jasmine’s work did not go unnoticed by those in her community. The Honorable J. Sterling Snowdy, recently re-elected to Division C of the 40th Judicial District Court, said there has never been a time he has practiced law in Edgard when Jasmine was not nearby. He practiced against her, for her, and, eventually, onside of her once they were both elected to the bench.

“As an attorney, she was prepared and fair. As a judge, she was very patient and always engaged,” Snowdy said.

Secretary Goldie Rainey agreed with Snowdy’s assessment. Addressing Jasmine from the podium, she told the retiring judge, “Every life mattered to you, and you believed every person deserved their day in court. Your honesty, your loyalty and your dedication to being a judge stood out to me and many others.”

Longtime Clerk of Court Eliana DeFrancesch has always felt comfortable asking Jasmine for advice, knowing she treats everyone with the utmost respect and dignity. DeFrancesch said Jasmine’s rulings have been fair and impartial, and she has given every litigant an opportunity to voice his or her opinion.

“(The people) who truly matter are those that bring out the best in us. They are the rare and amazing people that remind us that life is worth living. Judge Jasmine is one of those people,” DeFrancesch said. “She has nurtured and changed lives, and from her dedication to the Bible, she has an understanding and forgiving heart.”

Attorney Andres Wallace said Jasmine has been his inspiration in the practice of law. While most of the judges he deals with are not approachable, he said that has never been the case with Jasmine.

Registrar of Voters Russell Jack knows Jasmine as an aunt, a friend and a family leader who has always inspired him to keep God first. He has watched her, on multiple occasions, devote late nights and weekends to the cases she presides over. Drug Court director Ali Burl III has seen Jasmine’s dedication to rehabilitating the people of her community, and he is appreciative of the opportunity to have worked with her on a professional and personal level.

District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut described Jasmine as a “soldier for justice” and gave her a commemorative plaque in recognition of her service.

Catherine Ceasar met Jasmine in 1976 on the day they were both sworn into the office of Harold Morel. Ceasar pointed out that in her 30 years on the bench, Jasmine was never opposed for an election. She has served alongside five judges, under the tenure of five parish presidents, three district attorneys, three clerks of court, three assessors, four registrar of voters and four bailiffs.

Judge-Elect Nghana Lewis thanked Jasmine for being a role model to so many and for providing a priceless model of excellence, family and connectivity. As she steps into her Division B seat next week, she hopes she can serve in a manner that touches the surface of what Jasmine has done in office.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard read a proclamation in honor of Jasmine’s retirement. Since meeting her in 2004, Hotard has found Jasmine to be humble and fair, with a serene sense of calmness that has guided many throughout the years.

“You have been a fierce leader, not only for the judiciary, but a fierce leader for the West Bank,” Hotard said.

Jasmine was at a loss of words as she took in the surprise. As she addressed the room, the very room she where she was sworn in 30 years ago, she made it clear that she still wants to be available to the judges on the bench whenever they need guidance. She added that the 40th Judicial District Court will always hold a special place in her heart.