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Judicial Officers in the Community

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Judge deGravelles Tours Rhodes Courthouse

    Judge John deGravelles has a long-standing travel tradition. “When I go a new place, I love to go to the local courthouse and see the courtrooms and, if possible, a trial in action,” deGravelles said. “This is especially true in when Jan and I are in a foreign country. It is fascinating to see how different countries approach common legal problems.” Recently, when deGravelles returned to Rhodes, Greece to teach a class in maritime torts for Tulane Law School’s summer abroad program there, he got an opportunity to do just that. Judge deGravelles has been teaching this class for Tulane since 1993. 
    “I had six Greek lawyers in my class who were anxious to show me their legal world,” Judge deGravelles said. One of deGravelles’ students, lawyer Achilleas Daskalakis, arranged for a tour of the Rhodes courthouse given by the President of Rhodes’ Court of Appeal, Judge Christodoulos Kirtsidis. “Daskalakis and Judge Kirtsidis were gracious hosts,” deGravelles said. “I got to see criminal trials in progress and the beautiful courtrooms, including the one used by the Rhodes’ Court of Appeal. They were beautiful.”
    The courthouse (the “Palazzo di Giustiza” – or Palace of Justice) was built by the Italians in the 1920’s and 30s at a time when Rhodes was under Italian occupation (1914-1943). The design of the courthouse shows a melding of both Renaissance and Byzantine influences. “I was interested to see that, above the judge’s chair in each of the courtrooms, is a picture of Jesus. Unlike America where there is a separation of church and state, the Greek Orthodox faith is the state religion in Greece.” 
    Judge Kirtsidis told Judge deGravelles that renovations are beginning on the courthouse but that its unique and beautiful features will be carefully preserved. 
 

 
Hon. John W. deGravelles and Hon. Christodoulos Kirtsidis

 


Hon. Christodoulos Kirtsidis, Hon. John W. deGravelles, Nikolaos Kampagiannis,
Achilleas Daskalakis and Stelios Alexandris

 


Achilleas Daskalakis and Hon. Christodoulos Kirtsidis
in front of courtroom courtyard
 

Judge deGravelles participates in Symeonides Symposium – May 8, 2024

    On May 8-10, 2024 Judge John deGravelles and his wife Jan travelled to Willamette Law School in Salem, Oregon to participate in a symposium honoring Symeon Symeonides. Symeonides, a professor at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center from 1978 to 1999, and currently Dean Emeritus at Willamette Law School, was the drafter and driving force behind Book IV of Louisiana Civil Code, its conflicts of laws code. “Symeonides is a giant in the world of the domestic and international law of conflicts,” deGravelles said. Conflicts scholars from around the world presented papers honoring Symeonides at the three-day symposium.  


    Symeonides and Judge deGravelles became friends in 1979 when Symeonides was appointed to act as a curator for a badly injured Cypriot seaman deGravelles represented. “We travelled together to Athens and Cyprus for depositions and became life-long friends.” At the symposium, deGravelles presented a paper reflecting on their friendship and Symeonides’ lasting contributions to LSU Law School and the Louisiana Conflicts Code. 


    “Symeon’s story is a fascinating and inspiring one,” deGravelles said. “He came from a small rural village in Cyprus, was granted a scholarship to Harvard Law School and eventually became the world’s leading scholar in the field of conflicts.” Judge deGravelles and his wife Jan created a scholarship fund at LSU Law School in Symeonides’ name to assist students from foreign countries aspiring to get a legal education in this country. “We could think of no better way to honor our friendship and his contribution to LSU and Louisiana law.”



Hon. John W. deGravelles, Symeon Symeonides and LSU Law Prof. Nikolaos A. Davrados
 

Episcopal Students Return for Tutorial On “Justice: A-Z” – April 25, 2024

On April 25, 2024, The Middle District of Louisiana hosted students from Episcopal High School learning about the American criminal system of justice. Approximately 15 students and faculty attended a panel discussion centering on the inner workings of a criminal case in federal court: from investigation, indictment, prosecution, defense, trial and sentencing. Participating in the panel discussion was the Middle District’s United States Attorney, Ronald C. Gathe, Jr.; United States Marshal, William T. “Bill” Brown; Chief Federal Public Defender, Marci Blaize, and Chief of Probation and Pretrial Services, Clarence Rambo, III. District Judge John deGravelles moderated the discussion.

The students were participating in a class entitled Service Learning and Community Impact, a semester-long class taught by Dr. Rebecca Kuhn and The Rev. Charles deGravelles. “It is really gratifying to see students at the high school level so interested and engaged in the nuts and bolts of how our system works,” deGravelles said.
 

2024 Judge Richard N. Ware, IV Memorial High School Mock Trial Competition – March 23, 2024

On March 23, 2024 the Middle District of Louisiana hosted the 2024 Judge Richard N. Ware, IV Memorial High School Mock Trial Competition. The Middle District hosted over 100 high school students and volunteer coaches, comprised of the winning teams of four regional champions coordinated by the LSBA Young Lawyers Division.  Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick, Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, and Magistrate Judge Scott D. Johnson judged the final round of competition. Congratulations Caddo Magnet High School, who brought home the winning trophy!

Episcopal Students Visit the Middle District– September 2023
 

The Middle District of Louisiana hosted students from Episcopal High School learning about the American criminal system of justice. Over 40 students and faculty attended a panel discussion centering on the inner workings of a criminal case in federal court: from investigation, indictment, prosecution, defense, trial and sentencing. Participating in the panel discussion was the Middle District’s United States Attorney, Ronald C. Gathe, Jr.; United States Marshal, William T. “Bill” Brown; Chief Federal Public Defender, Marci Blaize, and Chief of Probation and Pretrial Services, Clarence Rambo, III. District Judge John deGravelles moderated the discussion. “It is really gratifying to see students at the high school level interested in the nuts and bolts of how our system works,” deGravelles said.

2023 African American Heritage Celebration – February 28, 2023

Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick, Judge Brian A. Jackson, Judge John W. deGravelles, Magistrate Judge Richard L. Bourgeois, Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, and Magistrate Judge Scott D. Johnson of the United States District Court; Judge Michael A. Crawford of the United States Bankruptcy Court; Judge Dana Douglas of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; and the agencies of the Middle District of Louisiana federal courthouse hosted the twenty-eighth annual African American Heritage Celebration on Tuesday, February 28th at the Russell B. Long Federal Building and United States Courthouse. The keynote speaker was Judge Freddie Pitcher with remarks by Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick. Leading the discussion with Judge Pitcher was Baton Rouge Attorney Darrel Papillion of the Walters, Papillion, Thomas, Cullens law firm. Musical guest, Ashley Johnson-Fervin, and Belaire High School’s JROTC and color guard also participated in this year’s program. Retired Judge and former Chancellor of the Southern University Law Center, Judge Freddie Pitcher, Jr., was the first African-American elected to a judgeship in Baton Rouge at the Baton Rouge City Court, 19th Judicial District Court, and Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, respectively. Judge Pitcher has also served as an Associate Justice Ad Hoc on the Louisiana Supreme Court, giving him the distinction of having served at every level of the state judicial system in Louisiana. He is the author of the book “Breaking Barriers: A View from the Bench” published and released in July 2022, by the LSU Press. See a recording of the program here.

2022 Constitution and Citizenship Day
 

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana hosted over forty students from Capitol High School on September 19, 2022. The students observed the Court’s annual Fall naturalization ceremony recognizing Constitution and Citizenship Day, then participated in a program called Civil Discourse and the Constitution: Candid Conversations, which is designed to encourage civil discussion and to enhance decisionmaking skills. To prepare for the program, students took a “Reality Check Quiz” to evaluate how they interact with others. The students then participated in a discussion about strategies for making good decisions and how to manage disagreements in a civil manner. The discussion was led by Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, with attorney volunteers: Candace Ford, Breazeale, Sachse, & Wilson, L.L.P.; and Jamie A. Flowers, Jr., Katherine K. Green, Eli J. Abad, Edward H. Warner and Justin A. Jack of the United States Attorney’s Office. The students also heard from United States District Judge Brian A. Jackson and United States Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. The Court welcomes the opportunity to engage the community in the workings of a federal court and to discuss how the Third Branch is organized and operates. For information about tours and presentations, please contact the Clerk of Court by calling (225) 389-3500 or sending a request to media@lamd.uscourts.gov.

2022 African American Heritage Celebration – February 22, 2022

Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick, Judge Brian A. Jackson, Judge John W. deGravelles, Magistrate Judge Richard L. Bourgeois, Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, Magistrate Judge Scott D. Johnson of the United States District Court, Judge Douglas D. Dodd of the United States Bankruptcy Court, and the agencies of the Middle District of Louisiana federal courthouse hosted the twenty-seventh annual African American History Month Celebration on Tuesday, February 22nd as a virtual event due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The keynote speaker was Dr. Corey Hebert, with remarks by Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick and Judge Brian A. Jackson.

Dr. Corey Hebert, a native of Baton Rouge who serves as an Assistant Professor at both the LSU Health Sciences Center and Tulane University Medical Center. Dr Hebert has also served as the Principal Research Investigator for over 60 phase 1, 2 and 3 FDA-regulated clinical trials on various nutritional and pharmacotherapeutic agents, and is an award-winning medical journalist, working as the on-air Chief Medical Editor for the NBC television affiliate in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.  See the virtual program here.

2021 African American Heritage Celebration - February 25, 2021

Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick, Judge Brian A. Jackson, Judge John W. deGravelles, Magistrate Judge Richard L. Bourgeois, Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, Magistrate Judge Scott D. Johnson of the United States District Court, Judge Douglas D. Dodd of the United States Bankruptcy Court, and the agencies of the Middle District of Louisiana federal courthouse hosted the twenty-six annual Black History Month Celebration on Thursday, February 25th as a virtual event due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The keynote speaker was Honorable Brian A. Jackson, with remarks by Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick and Michael Jefferson, Assistant U.S. Attorney.  See the virtual program and other resources here.

 

Honorable Brian A. Jackson provided Keynote Address for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts’ 2021 African American Heritage Month Celebration

Honorable Brian A. Jackson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana delivered the keynote address on Thursday, February 18, for the 2021 African American Heritage Month Celebration. The keynote address is an important component of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts’ Office of Fair Employment Practices’ (OFEP) month-long celebration of the history and contributions of African Americans who have influenced and enriched our great nation. OFEP could not have a more fitting keynote speaker given the national impact of Judge Jackson’s contributions to the Judicial Resources Committee and his unyielding commitment and dedication to advancing the rule of law.

Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes Judges Tullis Moot Court Competition Finals at the LSU Law Center – 10/26/2020
2020 African American Heritage Celebration - February 27, 2020

Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick, Judge Brian A. Jackson, Judge John W. deGravelles, Magistrate Judge Richard L. Bourgeois, Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, Magistrate Judge Scott D. Johnson of the United States District Court, Fifth Circuit Judge S. Kyle Duncan of the United States Court of Appeals, Judge Douglas D. Dodd of the United States Bankruptcy Court, and the agencies of the Middle District of Louisiana federal courthouse hosted the twenty-fifth annual African-American History Program on Thursday, February 27th.  The featured guest speaker was Mr. Verge Ausberry, Executive Deputy Director of Athletics and Executive Director of External Relations for Louisiana State University.  He is responsible for strategic planning for the athletic department and its daily operations. He also serves as the administrator for the football and men's basketball programs, the departmental liaison for the Tiger Athletic Foundation, and the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes. Ausberry also assists the Office of the President in external and governmental affairs. Mr. Ausberry shared his interesting story of transforming individuals, and the challenges and successes that he encountered along his journey.

Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes spoke to University Laboratory School 7th Graders – February 19, 2020

On February 19, 2020, Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, along with Congressman Garrett Graves and U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin, spoke to University Laboratory School 7th Graders regarding the three branches of government.

Chief Judge Shelly Dick, Magistrate Judge Richard Bourgeois and Chief Probation Officer Clarence Rambo discuss federal court system with students from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute - July 2019

Chief Judge Shelly Dick, Magistrate Judge Richard Bourgeois and Chief Probation Officer Clarence Rambo recently spoke (for a combined 5 hours) to students from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute through the LSU Continuing Education program, directed by Mrs. Linda Lightfoot.  The program is a series of learning opportunities geared toward those ages 50 and above.  Mrs. Lightfoot’s summer class included a four-session class on the federal courts and federal law enforcement.  Judge Dick introduced them to the Middle District’s RISE reentry court initiative and discussed the nomination/confirmation process for a federal judge.  Judge Bourgeois discussed the levels of judicial approval required by federal law and the United States Constitution as it pertains to various investigative techniques used by law enforcement.  Clarence Rambo introduced the group to the federal probation and pretrial services system and discussed the role of a United States Probation Officer in the federal courts.

U.S. District Court Judges Jackson and deGravelles Attend Brown Bag Lunch at Southern May 14, 2019

Judges Brian Jackson and John deGravelles recently attended a “Brown Bag Lunch” at Southern University Law Center where the judges shared with students an understanding of the practical aspects of the job performed by Federal Judges. After introductions by Chancellor John K. Pierre and Vice-Chancellor Alfreda Diamond, Judges Jackson and deGravelles explained some of the day to day workings of the Middle District that the students were not likely to get in their classes.  Judge Jackson, recently sworn in as President of the Fifth Circuit District Judges Association, explained that this lunch “is part of an effort by the Association to reach out to law schools across the Circuit and give law students a greater understanding of what we actually do.” The students were encouraged to ask  questions,  make comments and participate in an informal exchange of ideas. “What we wanted,” said Jackson, “was an informal setting where the students felt free to speak their minds and ask questions they might be reluctant to ask in a classroom setting.” “I think we succeeded,” added deGravelles. “The students seemed to really enjoy it.” The Judges plan on holding a similar lunch at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center in the fall.

Unlocking Employment Opportunities: Keynote Speaker, Shon Hopwood - March 8, 2019

Chris Broadwater, John Easley, Honorable Shelly D. Dick, Shon Hopwood, Lisa Davis Lavergne, Natalie Laborde, and Stephen M. Toups

Coordinated by Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick and Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, the Middle District of Louisiana sponsored a community wide event entitled “Unlocking Employment Opportunities:  Rehabilitating Individuals Through Strategic Encounters”.  The event featured keynote speaker Professor Shon Hopwood, former convicted bank robber and now Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown University.  The event targeted employers and decision makers in the community to discuss the importance of reentry programs for individuals reentering our community and workforce after incarceration.  Following the keynote address, Professor Hopwood moderated a panel discussion on prison reform featuring panelists Chris Broadwater-Vice President of Workforce Policy at Louisiana Community & Technical College, John Easley-Education Coordinator at Angola State Prison, Natalie Laborde-Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff at Louisiana Corrections, Lisa Davis Lavergne-Facility Director at Residential Reentry Center, and Stephen M. Toups-President at Turner Industries Group, LLC.

R.I.S.E. Program Boasts Three New Graduates March 6, 2019

R.I.S.E. Program Boasts Three New Graduates

Louisiana Middle concluded its third graduating class from the Rehabilitating Individuals Through Strategic Encounters (R.I.S.E.) Program on March 6th.  Graduates Henry Brown, Byron Carter, and Demond Spurlock were recognized in a courtroom ceremony followed by a reception after successfully completing the requirements of the program.  Since its implementation in 2017, eight individuals have graduated from the program.

The R.I.S.E. program is designed to increase the opportunities for success by significantly addressing the criminogenic factors that may increase the likelihood of recidivism. The program utilizes a philosophy adopted by drug courts that believes frequent contact with the Judge is instrumental in bringing about change.  Selection of participants for the R.I.S.E. Program is by recommendation from the probation officer based on the participants meeting the criteria and obtaining affirmation by the Court.  Participation is voluntary.  Participants agree to a 12-month placement in the R.I.S.E. program and, upon completion, the participant is required to complete an additional 6 or 12 months of supervised release.

Flory Trials Competition at LSU Law Center - February 25, 2019

LSU Law students Lucas Schenk and Benjamin Files won the Spring 2019 Ira S. Flory Mock Trial Competition on Feb. 25 at LSU Law.

Schenk and Files successfully defended their client in the case judged by the Honorable Richard Bourgeois, Magistrate Judge - United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.

Schenk and Files represented New Age Auto Company, Inc., which denied that its voice-to-text system caused a driver to lose focus of his vehicle and strike a pedestrian. John Griffin and Richard Norem represented Jamie Walker, the plaintiff who was struck by the vehicle, and finished runners-up in the competition.

Named in honor of the late professor of the Law Center, the Ira S. Flory Mock Trial Competition is open to all second- and third-year law students and is sponsored by the Board of Advocates. Flory was a professor at LSU Law for 36 years, and taught many course during his tenure, including Federal Procedure, Evidence, Bankruptcy and Negotiable Instruments. He was also instrumental in raising funds to increase the school library to the minimum requirements for accreditation and admission into the Association of the American Law Schools.

2019 African American Heritage Celebration - February 13, 2019

Honorable Brian A. Jackson and Honorable Sharon Weston Broome

Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick, Judge Brian A. Jackson, Judge John W. deGravelles, Magistrate Judge Richard L. Bourgeois, Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes of the United States District Court, Fifth Circuit Judge S. Kyle Duncan of the United States Court of Appeals, Judge Douglas D. Dodd of the United States Bankruptcy Court, and the agencies of the Middle District of Louisiana federal courthouse hosted the twenty-fourth annual African-American History Program on Wednesday, February 13th.  The featured guest speaker was the Honorable Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor-President for the City of Baton Rouge, Parish of East Baton Rouge.  Mayor-President Broome shared her interesting story of public service, which included the challenges and successes that she encountered along her journey.

The yearly program is organized by a planning committee representing all federal agencies housed in the courthouse complex.  Each year the program features a guest speaker or speakers who are leaders in the community, state, or nation.  Past speakers have included the first African-American mayor of Baton Rouge, judges, doctors, military leaders, civil rights activists, television personalities, and cultural influencers such as community and business leaders involved in various Mardi Gras organizations.  Participants in the program also include student groups, Junior ROTC, local musicians and choral groups.  Local media covers the event each year, and the program has grown to the point where the Middle District’s ceremonial courtroom no longer accommodates all guests,  requiring the use of an overflow courtroom.

Louisiana Middle is Nation’s Third Most Productive U. S. District Court January 2019

Of the ninety-four Federal District Courts in the United States, the District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ranks as the third most productive court in the country based on averaged statistics for fiscal years 2012-2018.  This milestone was achieved while also being ranked as the fourth busiest court based on weighted filings.  Louisiana Middle District, on average, has been in the top ten most productive courts for the past six years.  This is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the Judges of the Middle District and to all those supporting the administration and management of cases in the Court.  At the conclusion of calendar year 2018, the Middle District had 2,096 Civil Cases and 240 Criminal Defendants pending, a staggering workload for the District’s three Article III and two Magistrate Judges.Of the ninety-four Federal District Courts in the United States, the District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ranks as the third most productive court in the country based on averaged statistics for fiscal years 2012-2018.  This milestone was achieved while also being ranked as the fourth busiest court based on weighted filings.  Louisiana Middle District, on average, has been in the top ten most productive courts for the past six years.  This is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the Judges of the Middle District and to all those supporting the administration and management of cases in the Court.  At the conclusion of calendar year 2018, the Middle District had 2,096 Civil Cases and 240 Criminal Defendants pending, a staggering workload for the District’s three Article III and two Magistrate Judges.

Second graduating class of Louisiana Middle District’s Rehabilitating Individuals through Strategic Encounters (RISE) program

Second graduating class of Louisiana Middle District’s Rehabilitating Individuals through Strategic Encounters (RISE) program.  Judicial Officers pictured are Chief Judge Shelly Dick and Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes with the new graduates.  For more information on the RISE program, click here.

2018 African American Heritage Celebration
2018 Law Day & Naturalization Ceremony
Flory Trials Competition at LSU Law Center - March 27, 2017

Named in honor of the late professor of the Law Center, the Ira S. Flory Mock Trial Competition is open to all second-and third-year law students and is sponsored by the Trial Advocacy Board.  A Flory Trial is held each semester; the fall Flory trial is traditionally a criminal case, while the spring Flory trial is a civil case.  Participating in the Flory trials is one of the best ways to get real-life experience and exposure to evidence and other rules of trial. Winners of the Spring 2017 competition are Ms. Quinn Brown and Ms. Caila Cleary.

Pictured from left to right: Ms. Quinn Brown, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, Senior U.S. District Judge James Brady, U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes and Ms. Caila Cleary.

Baton Rouge Bar Installation - January 11, 2017

  • Judge Shelly D. Dick, Judge John W. deGravelles, 2017 BRBA President Karli Glascock Johnson, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson and Judge James Brady were photographed following the Bar Leader Installation Ceremony.

2016 African American Heritage Celebration - February 25, 2016

The Louisiana Middle District celebrated its twenty-first annual African-American Heritage Program on February 25, 2016.  Clarence A. Becknell, Sr. presented “Mardi Gras:  The African-American Experience.”  In attendance were the Judicial Officers for Louisiana Middle District Court, employees of all Court units, local dignitaries, and guests.  The Court would like to recognize the following schools/groups for participating in the program:  Presentation of Colors - Zachary High School Army JROTC, Bronco Battalion; musical selections - John Gray, Trumpeter and Michael Foster and The Michael Foster Project; school guests - Madison Preparatory Academy. 

About the Speaker:  Mr. Becknell is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana.  He is the Historian Emeritus of Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Inc.  Mr. Becknell joined the Zulu organization in May 1981.  He has always been an active member and has been instrumental in the growth of the organization through marketing and instituting community programs.  The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Inc. is celebrating its 100th year of incorporation (1916-2016).  While the “Group” marched in Mardi Gras as early as 1901, their first appearance as Zulus came in 1909, with William Story as King.  Zulu has grown tremendously over the years and the continual growth is credited to the members for their love, loyalty, and dedication to the organization.

BRBA and BR Chapter of FBA hosted Federal Court Admission Ceremony - December 13, 2016

The  BRBA  and  the  Baton  Rouge  Chapter  of  the Federal  Bar  Association  hosted  its  annual  Admission  to the  Federal  Courts  Ceremony  Tuesday,  Dec.  13,  2016.  Judge  John  W.  deGravelles  presided  over  the  ceremony wherein  34  attorneys  were  admitted  to  one  or  more  of the federal courts including the U.S. District Court for the Middle  District  of  Louisiana,  U.S.  District  Court  for  the Eastern  District  of  Louisiana,  U.S.  District  Court  for  the Western  District  of  Louisiana  and  the  U.S.  Fifth  Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thomas D. “Beau” Bourgeois Jr., Judge John W. deGravelles and Vic Suane