Jeremy Alford

UPDATE: Jindal's top lawyer has wandering eyes

by Jeremy Alford

Speculation over the how much longer Jimmy Faircloth will remain Gov. Bobby Jindal’s general counsel has been bubbling up to the surface for weeks. Some of the scuttlebutt has pegged Faircloth as a man who wants more out of his job, but is hog-tied by the politically cautious Jindal administration. Others whisper that the governor simply wants a new chief attorney.

Whichever scenario is true, or untrue, Faircloth confirmed in a brief interview with The Independent Weekly Thursday that he’s pondering a run for the Louisiana Supreme Court. Earlier this week, it was announced that Justice Chet Traylor of Winnsboro would be retiring on May 31. “I’m being urged to run by several people and I’m considering it,” Faircloth says.

For now, Faircloth is mulling over the decision with his family. Sources close to Faircloth say that the distance — geographically — that his job in Baton Rouge has created between his family in Alexandria has been tough and, unlike other state officials, he often makes the jaunt back home. A post on the Louisiana Supreme Court, however, would present an even deeper challenge; it’s located in New Orleans.

The big question is whether Jindal, a Republican, would be willing to endorse a former staffer, and whether that endorsement would come with enough money to mount a substantive bid in what should be a competitive race. Qualifying could take place in the fall and District Judge Marcus Clark of Monroe and former Justice Joe Bleich of Ruston are among the other names being batted about.

As for Jindal’s endorsement, the governor has certainly developed a track record where anything is possible. This week, Jindal came out in support of state Sen. Rob Marionneaux, a Democrat from Grosse Tete, who is gunning for the Public Service Commission. And earlier this year, Jindal threw his support behind Baton Rouge state Senate candidate Lee Domingue, a fellow Republican who seems to have more baggage than even Delta can carry.

Having no prior judicial experience from the bench could hurt Faircloth in the race, and his previous practice could provide political fodder as well. He was a founding partner of Faircloth, Vilar & Elliot, an Alexandria firm specializing in municipal law and commercial litigation. Despite an initial reluctance, Faircloth was forced to sever all ties with the firm when taking the job with Jindal after concerns arose over potential conflicts involving some of the firm’s clients who deal directly with the state, including the Coushatta Indian tribe.

As soon as Faircloth decides what to do, the speculation can finally end and make way for a new nugget of intrigue: Who, exactly, will the governor choose to replace him?