Retired Federal Judge Richard “Dicky” Haik, Sr. joined Discover Lafayette to discuss his distinguished career in law after serving on the bench for 32 years.
Judge Haik grew up in New Iberia and proudly went to Catholic High of New Iberia along with other notables who have followed him, including retired Sheriff Mike Neustrom and UL-Lafayette’s current football coach, Michael Desormeaux. He reflected on his admiration of the late Coach Bobby Banna who “was not only a coach but a teacher of life.” Haik played football on scholarship at USL and after graduation in general business in 1972, went on to graduate from Loyola Law School in 1975 following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ted Haik.
Judge Haik served in the Louisiana Army National Guard obtaining the rank of Captain and company commander for his unit. He served as a Captain in the US Army Reserves from 1980 to 1983.
In 1984 at the age of 34, Judge Haik was elected as a state court judge (without opposition!) for the 16th Judicial District, covering Iberia, St. Martin, and St. Mary Parishes. In state court, his caseload included family and custody issues, as well as criminal sentencing, which was personally difficult for him to rule on and led to many sleepless nights. But that is part of the job, and he followed his dad’s advice from childhood to “Listen to everyone’s advice and do what you think is right.”
In 1991 at the age of 40, Judge Richard “Dicky” Haik was nominated by Pres. George H. W. Bush to serve on the federal bench for the U. S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana, where he served as chief judge of the court from 2002 to 2009. The Federal Court is a much stricter court system than state courts, and Haik says to young attorneys: “If you haven’t tried a case in federal court, it’s advisable to get counsel from someone who has before you try your case.” He’s been blessed with 42 talented law clerks and said five or six of his former clerks have gone on to serve as judges.
Haik had a few high-profile cases including the Lafayette Parish Public School System’s desegregation case where he ruled on April 24, 2006, that after 41 years, the school system was free from judicial oversight of its operations. “I did what I thought was right.”
There was also an unfortunate incident that happened not long after he was appointed to the federal bench. He was approached with an offer to make $2 million in exchange for ruling a certain way on a case worth much more than that. Speaking of this dark and scary time in his life, Haik says, “The fellow didn’t know me that well.” He went to the FBI and U. S. Attorney and personally assisted investigators in gathering evidence to obtain federal indictments against the individuals involved. “They wired up my camp at Cypremort Point with cameras and tape recorders, which went on for several months.” Haik had around-the-clock guards to ensure his safety until the suspects were arrested. Two of the three went to jail.
“I’ve also enjoyed good cases tried by good lawyers. The bottom line is I always enjoyed being on the bench. Federal court is more formal, very seldom did we allow people to continue cases, and you knew where you were going in federal court.”
Judge Haik retired in 2016 and now is of counsel with Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik, where he focuses on mediation matters. In that position, he has the pleasure of serving alongside his son, Richard T. Haik, Jr.
Haik coaches his grandsons in flag football and is very involved with all of his kids and grandkids. A neighbor lets the team utilize a big, empty lot for team practices during the Spring and Fall. He’s learned to be a bit more laid back when dealing with these littlest players as they progress. “To me, football was a life lesson and I learned the best from the best. I enjoy teaching sportsmanship.”
We thank Judge Richard “Dicky” Haik for his exemplary career in serving on the state and federal benches. What a gem in our community!