|Voter's Guide, 2019 Fall Elections, Other Parishes
|Position ||District Judge, 22nd Judicial District Court, Division F |
|Name||Vincent 'Vinny' J Lobello|
|Party Affiliation|| Republican|
|Present Employer / position||Partner – Wynne, Goux & Lobello, Attorneys at Law, L.L.C.|
|Length of residence in Jurisdiction||26 years|
|List of educational institutions and degrees||Loyola University of New Orleans School of Law, Juris Doctor (1999)|
University of Southern Mississippi, B.S.B.A. International Business/Economics (1992)
|Prior elected and appointed positions||Assistant District Attorney 22nd Judicial District, 1999-2004|
Judge Pro Tempore Slidell City Court, Approved by Louisiana Supreme Court 2014
|Civic involvement and affiliations||East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce|
Louisiana Association for Justice
Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Italian American Bar Association
Questions specific to the position
|1. Describe your experience as an attorney with civil and criminal court trials, including numbers of jury and judge trials and your record for settlements and plea bargains.
||I have been practicing law for 20 years. I spent the first 5 of those years as an Assistant District Attorney prosecuting criminal cases. I left the District Attorney’s office in 2004 to run the private law practice of a friend who was JAG officer in the Army Reserves and who was activated and deployed to Iraq for a year. Since then I have been in private practice. My private practice consists of approximately 1/3 criminal defense cases, 1/3 plaintiff’s injury cases, and 1/3 commercial litigation representing local businesses as both plaintiffs and defendants. I have regularly represented police officers, through their local police association, in a variety of legal matters. I consider it a great honor that those police officers have selected me to represent them.|
I have handled this broad variety of cases, both sides of these cases, on a regular basis throughout my career. Every other candidate for this office has had a career practicing mostly, if not exclusively, in one area of the law and on one side of those cases. Other candidates may claim to have some experience outside of that one area, but any such experience is limited and minimal. I am the only candidate for this office who has this experience on a day to day basis throughout my career.
Whoever is elected Judge of Division F will preside over a broad variety of types of cases, very much like the broad variety of cases I have handled over my career. To provide some statistics on the cases which go before the district court, over the last four years, the mix of cases has been: 17%-18% civil cases, 14%-16% civil cases , 63%-64% traffic cases and 3%-4% juvenile cases. Juvenile cases go before the two family court divisions of the 22nd Judicial District Court, not before Division F.
Considering these statistics, I believe it is crucial that whoever is elected to serve as our next judge in Division F have substantial experience with both criminal and civil cases. I am the only candidate with that experience.
I cannot provide a specific number of jury and judge trials I have tried, or a specific number of settlements or plea bargains. I have tried both civil and criminal cases before judges and juries. What I can provide are statistics on the numbers of cases which actually go to jury trial in the 22nd Judicial District. Over the last four years, less than .5% (one-half of one percent) of the civil cases filed went to jury trials. Over the last four years, less than .66% of criminal cases filed went to jury trials. And of those criminal cases, many of those are what are referred to as “pick and plea” cases, where a jury is picked and one witness is sworn in knowing that a plea deal would occur. These “pick and plea” cases are done for the sole purpose of “goosing” the number of jury trials for statistical purposes. So I would caution any voter to highly scrutinize any candidate’s claims of the number of jury trials they have tried, particularly if that candidate is or was a long time prosecutor.
The bottom line is that I have more experience in the types of cases the judge of Division F will preside over, I have more experience on both sides of those cases, and I have the right experience for the position of judge of Division F. My record and reputation certainly proves that.
|2. What factors would you consider in granting and setting bail amounts and in granting (non-bail) sign out bonds for defendants? What do you believe is the primary consideration?
||As all judges are required to do, I would be obligated to apply the law governing bail, including the United States Constitution (Eighth Amendment), the Louisiana Constitution (Article I, Section 18) and applicable Louisiana statutes. The short answer to this question is that as a judge, I will fairly and impartially apply these laws considering the facts and circumstances of each individual case. But my primary consideration will always be applying the law in a way that best protects the safety of victims, potential victims and the community in general. |
The longer answer is that the factors a judge is required to consider when granting and setting bail are set forth in Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 316. The primary considerations set forth in this statute for granting and setting bail amounts are to ensure the presence of the defendant at court hearings and to ensure the safety of any other person and the community.
The factors judges are required to consider in setting bail under this statute are specifically enumerated as:
(1) The seriousness of the offense charged, including but not limited to whether the offense is a crime of violence or involves a controlled dangerous substance.
(2) The weight of the evidence against the defendant.
(3) The previous criminal record of the defendant.
(4) The ability of the defendant to give bail.
(5) The nature and seriousness of the danger to any other person or the community that would be posed by the defendant's release.
(6) The defendant's voluntary participation in a pretrial drug testing program.
(7) The absence or presence in the defendant of any controlled dangerous substance.
(8) Whether the defendant is currently out on a bail undertaking on a previous felony arrest for which he is awaiting institution of prosecution, arraignment, trial, or sentencing.
(9) Any other circumstances affecting the probability of defendant's appearance.
(10) The type or form of bail.
Those are the factors I would be required to consider when granting and setting bail amounts.
Regarding the granting of “sign out bonds”, I assume this refers to what lawyers call “signature bonds”, or “unsecured personal surety” bonds. The various types of bonds or bail are set forth in Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 321, and defined in additional statutes. Under these statutes, persons arrested for certain crimes may not be released on what this questionnaire refers to as “sign out bonds”. As a judge, I would fairly and impartially apply these laws, based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, with my top priority being to protect the safety of victims, potential victims and our community.
|3. What are your beliefs regarding alternative sentences for non-violent offenders, juveniles, or people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or drug addiction?
||All judges are required to apply the law as defined by the United States Constitution, the Louisiana Constitution and Louisiana statutes. Each criminal offense has a statutory sentencing range, which can only be deviated from with the consent of the District Attorney. Having said that, under the right circumstances, I am very much in favor of alternative sentences for non-violent offenders (both juvenile and adult) and people experiencing genuine issues such as homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction. To the extent I would be permitted by law to do so, and based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, I would offer alternative sentences. This would include the use of the 22nd Judicial District Court’s specialty courts (i.e. drug court, sobriety court, veterans court, re-entry court, behavioral health court and family preservation court). I intend to volunteer to participate and preside over as many of the specialty courts as possible, as needed by the 22nd Judicial District.|
I believe the punishment should fit the crime. Each case must be decided on an individual basis depending on the facts and the law. I believe my vast experience on both sides of criminal cases provides me with unique insight and ability to discern between those defendants who just made some bad choices and are in need of help and direction, and those defendants who have chosen to make crime and violence a lifestyle. And I believe my experience puts me in a much better position to make those calls than my opponents who have little or no experience with criminal cases and little or no experience on the defense side of criminal cases.
I would also encourage and support, to the extent I would be permitted to do so as a judge, and under the right circumstances, the District Attorney’s use of discretion in granting second chances with its diversion or Pre-Trial Intervention (“PIP”) programs. This would reduce the number of firs time, non-violent offenders who come before the courts and end up with convictions which may unnecessarily and irreversibly alter and reduce their career and life opportunities.
Based on my many years of practice dealing with clients who have drug addiction and mental illness problems, I can say with certainty that locking those people up is not the solution. In the vast majority of cases it simply does not work. All it does is cost the tax payers money and force us to deal with the same people with the same untreated and unresolved issues when they are released. Sometimes it is necessary. But it should not be considered as a first line solution. People with drug addiction and mental illness issues can only be reformed and helped by the appropriate treatment, both short term and long term. Only with such treatment can the impact their issues have on our community be dealt with.
|4. What are the biggest hurdles to achieving fairness for all defendants, regardless of their socioeconomic status, and how would you address those hurdles?
||The biggest hurdle to achieving fairness for all defendants, regardless of their socioeconomic status, is the lack of understanding and empathy in our judicial system. In my opinion, this comes from the lack of experience of both judges and attorneys actually representing people on both sides of criminal cases. Under our system, justice is supposed to be blind. That requires judges to decide each case and each issue based on the facts and the law of each individual case, and without regard to who the parties or attorneys are. I firmly believe that unless a judge has represented parties on both sides of criminal cases, it is very difficult for a judge to be truly unbiased and to have an understanding of and empathy for both sides of a case. I would address those hurdles by bringing my many years of experience representing parties on both sides of criminal cases to the bench, along with the understanding and empathy those years of experience have given me. |
I would also bring my understanding of the inequities created by the overwhelming case load born by the public defender’s office. This includes the inherent disadvantage placed on defendants represented by the public defender’s office, because of that case load, and the public defender’s resulting inability to devote sufficient time to each case to ensure the constitutional rights of all defendants are protected, and to ensure the public defender is given a chance to adequately represent their clients. I would work with the public defender’s office to ensure its attorneys have the opportunity to fulfill their professional, ethical and constitutional duties to their clients. This is the only way to truly achieve fairness for all defendants, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
This issue must also be addressed at the street level by our law enforcement agencies and through their use of discretion and fairness. I believe in our community our local law enforcement agencies have done a good job of this. But there is always room for improvement. The same is true for our District Attorney’s office. We cannot obtain true fairness until it is practiced across the spectrum of the criminal justice system, from the police on the streets, to our District Attorney’s office and all the way through our court system. But in the end, a judge can only do what the law allows by applying the law fairly in court cases, regardless of a defendant’s socioeconomic status.