Judge Jules Edwards has served in the 15th Judicial District Court for 27 years. He joined Jan Swift of Discover Lafayette to discuss what he’s learned from working in the state court system and his concomitant desire to help at-risk youth address behavioral problems before they end up in jail. Judge Edwards is a candidate for Lafayette City Court Judge in the upcoming election on November 3, 2020.
A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Loyola and Loyola Law School, Jules Edwards has served as a Judge for the 15th Judicial District Court since January 1, 1993. He has been a pioneer in effectively rehabilitating offenders and turning around lives through drug courts and re-entry courts. Judge Edwards thanked his parents for stressing servant leadership and the importance of obtaining an education.
Judge Edwards has distinguished himself with lifelong service to our country, state, and community. He enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve in the summer of his freshman year in college in 1977; he served in the Louisiana National Guard until 2007, retiring as a Colonel and recognized as the best Staff Judge Advocate in the United States. At the request of Major General Gary Whipple of Louisiana, Edwards served as Inspector General, working to ensure that the units were following proper procedures. He credits his time in the military for building his character, teaching him discipline, and instilling honor and integrity into his daily actions.
A former Chair of the Louisiana Judiciary Commission, Edwards was inducted into the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame in 2013. He is Past-President of the Louisiana District Judges Association.
Edwards is currently a member of the Advisory Council on Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education, and a Member of the Louisiana Drug Policy Board. He has worked with the Louisiana Sentencing Commission to assist the judiciary and the legislature in formulating and implementing a uniform sentencing policy to ensure that judges throughout Louisiana provide consistency in their rulings. Edwards has created and taught classes through the Judicial College to train judges on how to utilize evidence-based practices, and how to respond to people in highly charged environments by being attentive and respectful.
Anytime a person is arrested in Lafayette Parish on a drug charge, they are assigned to Judge Edwards’ Court. His goal is to nudge the drug offender from “‘The Road to Perdition’ to the road to success.” He shared that “one of the principal difficulties in society is that we don’t do an adequate job of socializing, there is no focused effort to develop young people’s character. While this is not done on purpose, they make decisions based upon what brings pleasure at that moment. They don’t think about eventual pain or how their behavior impacts others. But there are evidence-based procedures to get someone back on track.”
He further states, “It is important not to judge a person just because of the stupidest decision they make on the worst day of their life. People grow, they do change.”
Judge Edwards spoke of the positive impact Drug Court has on turning around lives. Designed to be completed in 18 months, offenders agree to go through the program and comply with certain requirements such as obtaining their GED, undergoing counseling, frequent drug testing and other measures the court sees fit. Offenders plead guilty but are not adjudicated “guilty” and if they successfully complete the program, their conviction is set aside. Edwards notes that many people have never had anyone take an interest in their lives; drug court gives weekly positive reinforcement on their smallest actions and participants build an incredible desire to please the judge and the court.
Extended jail time is never a good thing, according to Edwards, as the incarcerated individuals just learn bad behavior from their fellow inmates. He prefers to see short-term jail time orders only when necessary which gives an opportunity for the person to comply with orders that they refused to follow before incarceration. The problem is that “by the time I see folks in criminal trouble (in state district court) it is not their first rodeo. They are serving a life sentence on the installment plan and they don’t know it. They’ll serve a sentence and then they’re back again a short time later.”
“By the time I see folks in criminal trouble (in state district court) it is not their first rodeo. They are serving a life sentence on the installment plan and they don’t know it. They’ll serve a sentence and then they’re back again a short time later. That is why I’m running for City Court Judge. I’ve always been preparing to be this City Court Judge, I just didn’t know it. I want to work with people before they get on The Road to Perdition…..before the wreckage piles up.”
Edwards is running for Lafayette City Court Judge to be able to work with people before they get into too much trouble, or on “The Road to Perdition” as he puts it….before the wreckage piles up. “I’ve always been preparing to be this City Court Judge; I just didn’t know it. I want to be the person to who provides a fair shake in court. I want to learn what led that person to court and provide a forum to learn the truth.”
For more information on Judge Jules Edwards and his race for the Lafayette City Court Judge seat, please visit https://www.edwardsforcityjudge.com/.