Standing for Empathy: A Look at Judicial Candidate Richard Perque

Editor’s note: this is the latest in our series introducing our readers to candidates running for public office. Big Easy Magazine has not endorsed any candidate in any race, and we have contacted candidates running for different offices requesting interviews, including Mr. Perque’s opponents. 

Richard Perque is running for judge of Civil District Court and wants to set himself apart from the pack.

Perque is pronounced “perk,” in case you’re wondering.

He is an experienced attorney, a Louisiana native, and a long-time New Orleanian with years of service on the Louisiana Human Rights Commission. You’ve seen his name and his face on billboards all over town, but how much do you really know about the candidate?

The position he’s running for is a family affair. His mother, Jane Triche Milazzo, is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and was appointed by Former President Barack Obama. His grandfather, Risley C. Triche, was also in politics and represented Assumption and Ascension Parishes in the Louisiana House between 1955 and 1976.

Family Life

Despite the positions that members of his family have held, Perque says times were often tough. His mother, while putting herself through law school, often had to choose between buying groceries and paying the light bill. In our conversation, Perque expressed that those years growing up, his family struggling to make ends meet, gave him a sincere respect and appreciation for the tribulations of all families, no matter their wealth.

“You cannot truly understand someone,” Perque says, “who they are and what they’re made of, until you take the time to ask.” Perque wants voters in New Orleans to take the time to get to know him, the same way he has for years been dedicated to knowing each of his clients. If elected, he assures, he will treat each of his cases the same way, as individuals with diverse lives.

Staying on the Bench

When a new judge is elected to Civil District Court, Perque explains, they generally rotate into and then shortly out of Family Court. New Orleans Family Court, has seen five judges in 22 months; that’s roughly one new judge every season. This has caused, according to Perque’s research, a huge accumulation among Family Court cases, leaving parents separated from their children and an extreme inefficiency in court.

If elected, Perque promises to stay in Family Court for at least two years rather than rotating out, eschewing the more “glamorous” cases and sticking with Family Court to clear out the backlog. He’s seen the impact that the high turnover has on the people that court serves, and wants to give parents, spouses and families a chance to have their cases heard and adjudicated by a judge who cares deeply about their outcomes.

“Patience and an Open Mind”

How will he manage, with a surfeit of cases in front of him, to maintain his characteristic optimism? “It’s hard work,” he admits. But he’s practiced, with over 12 years of working with family law, keeping the spirit of optimism alive. His Human Right Commission experience has helped prepare him as well, he says, recognizing that people come from all different backgrounds.

“The most important characteristics for a judge in New Orleans to have are patience and an open mind.” Perque wants to bring those characteristics to the bench. He acknowledges that he’ll see case after case in court, the same way he has in his practice, but he strives to recognize that to each person he comes across, their conversation may be one of the most important conversations they have ever had in their lives. “To me, it could seem like one of five meetings I’ve had that day, but I never want to lose sight that it means the world to my clients.”

For his clients, and, he hopes, for those who step into his courtroom, Perque, says he hopes to do as Maya Angelou suggested, “be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” In the legal profession, he explains, one often comes across people on the worst days of their lives, and Perque is committed to maintaining his idealism in each interaction if elected to the Civil District Court.

Brooke Gershman received her Master’s in Professional Writing from the University of New Orleans. She calls New Orleans home, along with her dogs, her son and her husband. Read more of her work here.

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