Gene Thibodeaux Chief Judge of Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal Retires
Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Tulane Law School, where he was an Earl Warren Scholar. He practiced law for seventeen years in New York City and Lake Charles before his election to the Third Circuit in 1992. He is the past President of the Council of Chief Judges and among his other leadership positions, he served on the Task Force on Judicial Independence, which he co-chaired, the Louisiana Supreme Court Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. He has been active in the charter schools movement and is the 2012 recipient of the Board Member of the Year Award from Charter Schools USA, an education service provider based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; the 2016 Education All Star Award from Stand for Children; the 2016 Difference Maker Award for being a leader in education reform; the 2013 Celebration of Children Award for his efforts to improve educational equality for children; the 2010 recipient of the Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Bar Association; the 2009 recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award from the National Bar Association for serving as an exemplary role model for judges and lawyers; and, the recipient of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s President Award in 2009.
As recently as the 1980′s it was rare for minority judges to be elected in Louisiana, but then attorney Gene Thibodeaux helped change that. “In 1988 there were only six black judges in the state of Louisiana, four of whom were from New Orleans, two outside New Orleans. So, a class action suit was filed disputing the manner in which judges were elected, that is, disputing the at large election system. The court ruled in our favor and as a result of that the legislature created sub-districts within the courts of appeal.”
Thibodeaux is pleased to have been part of the legal team to bring about long awaited change.
He left the Third Circuit only because in Louisiana judges cannot run for re-election after age 70. He will return to the practice of law on a selective basis.
Thibodeaux was elected without opposition to the Third Circuit in 1992 and became chief in 2004. He says his most significant achievement may be helping to bring technological advances to the court. District Court Judge Sharon Wilson was elected to fill Judge Thibodeaux’s seat on the Third Circuit.