Voter's Guide, 2020 Fall Elections, Louisiana
Position Associate Justice, Supreme Court, 7th District
NamePiper Dinita Griffin

Campaign Information

Campaign Web Site

Bio Information

Party AffiliationDemocrat
ProfessionCivil District Court Judge
Present Employer / positionState of Louisiana, Judicial Branch/Orleans Parish District Court Judge
Length of residence in Jurisdiction51 years
List of educational institutions and degreesUniversity of Notre Dame, Bachelor of Arts (1984)
Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert, School of Law, Juris Doctor (1987)
Prior elected and appointed positionsAppointed Judge Pro Tempore of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court by the Louisiana Supreme Court
Appointed Ad Hoc Judge Orleans Parish Juvenile Court by the Louisiana Supreme Court
Civic involvement and affiliationsSt. Katharine Drexel Prep School, Board Member and Past Board President
Second Baptist Church 6th District, Trustee Board Member & Sunday School Teacher
Crescent City Chapter of The Links, Inc. (Past President),
Greater New Orleans YWCA (Past President, Past Treasurer)
Catholic Charities of Greater New Orleans, Past Board Member

Questions specific to the position

1. Discuss your prior court experience with emphasis on criminal and civil law as a practicing attorney and as a District Court Judge. Currently as a judge on the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, I handle a general civil law docket which includes complex litigation, asbestos cases, matters involving constitutional issues, multiple parties as well as class actions. During my almost 20 years on the bench I have averaged 5 jury trials per year, tried more than 3000 bench trials and handled several thousand hearings. As a Judge Pro Tempore in the Civil District Court I handling a general civil law docket as described above. Lastly, as Judge Ad Hoc Juvenile Court I handled both criminal and child in need of care cases.
2. Describe your appellate practice trial experience as an attorney, or as an appeals court judge. As a practicing attorney, I filed various appeals and writ applications to the appellate courts. Although I have not served as an appellate court judge, as a Civil District Court judge I review appeals from various City entities. The appeals require that I review the facts and evidence presented to the board or commission and make a legal determination as to whether to affirm the decision of the lower board or commission or reverse it.
3. In a June 8th letter, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Johnson acknowledged "the part we each play in maintaining a system that leaves many of our fellow citizens, especially our African American citizens, feeling that they cannot breathe." Do you agree that the Louisiana criminal justice system disproportionately impacts African Americans? If so, what will you do as a Supreme Court Justice to lessen that impact? As a member of Louisiana’s judiciary, it is troubling for me to acknowledge the truth in the statements made by Chief Justice Johnson. However, there is no question that the statistics bare out her observations. More than 60% of males incarcerated in Louisiana jails are African American. Having served in various leadership roles within the judiciary my overall assessment of my colleagues is that most judges make every effort to ensure that justice is being dispensed fairly. I recognize that this is not an easy task. I believe that many issues plaguing the perception of our judicial system are issues that must be addressed by our highest court as the judges take their direction from the top. I believe that we must continue to provide required education, in the form of judicial training which specifically addresses implicit bias, guidance and support to judges; so that no one including people of color, have a feeling of unfairness or that the Judicial System is in some way suffocating them. If elected, I will work with the bar association and various entities to increase access to justice initiatives, promote programs aimed at curbing recidivism, and work with the legislature to address the disparities and inconsistencies in the law.
4. It has come to public attention there is a lack of transparency when judges have been disciplined. What will you do to ensure transparency? Substantial changes have been promulgated by the Supreme Court on the issue of judicial discipline records in recent years. These changes have been specifically made to address the questions of transparency on judicial discipline. I am comfortable with the current system where the public does not have access to the initial complaint because of the screening process. Judges are public servants but must be free to make decisions that are independent without fear of retribution by the filing of complaints without merit. Complaints must continue to be aggressively and expeditiously screened to ensure that the dignity of the judicial system is maintained. Once a claim is found to have merit, the public has the right to access to those allegations. Transparency in these proceedings will undoubtably promote confidence in the judiciary and I support transparency once a meritorious claim has been determined.
5. What are your views as a judicial candidate about streamlining procedures and preventing lawsuit abuse, while also ensuring access to the courts, particularly for lower income and indigent parties? I know that there have been recent measures passed that are aimed at the goal of both streamlining procedures and preventing lawsuit abuse. The Law Institute, of which I am a member, has also spent years overhauling the rules of civil procedure, specifically summary judgment procedures. Some have suggested that the Court system should consider more mandatory mediation and settlement efforts, I believe that most judges would agree that anything that allows for a successful resolution of litigation would be beneficial to the entire judicial system. I would also consider expanding programs such as the Help Desk which was expanded at Civil District Court under my tenure as Chief Judge. The Help Desk provides resources and forms to litigants which helps litigants navigate those areas of the law that may or may not require an attorney. Lawyer assistance programs that encourage lawyers to volunteer their time should also be expanded to curtail some of the long wait times that many indigent litigants face.

The appellate process is sometimes stagnant because of delays in receiving cases from the district of lower appellate courts. Appellate courts have self imposed deadlines which lends itself to allowing appellate court judges to study cases and ensure that best practices are being utilized by the lower courts. However, I believe that appellate courts which consist of individual appellate judges who have strong work ethic and exceptional academic abilities will contribute to a more substantial and expeditious appellate process. I don’t think this belongs here-I would delete it.