Jim Mitchell (Louisiana judge)

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Jim Mitchell
File:Judge Jim Mitchell of Leesville, LA.jpg
Division C Judge of the Louisiana 30th Judicial District Court for Vernon Parish
In office
January 1, 2009 – July 24, 2015
Preceded byLester P. Kees
Succeeded byScott Westerchil
Personal details
James Richard Mitchell

(1946-03-31)March 31, 1946
Shreveport, Caddo Parish
Louisiana, USA
DiedJuly 24, 2015(2015-07-24) (aged 69)
Alexandria, Rapides Parish
Cause of deathSudden illness
Resting placeHicks Pentecostal Cemetery in Hicks in Vernon Parish
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)(1) Laurel Jeanne Drushel Mitchell (divorced)
(2) Michelle Price Basco Mitchell (married 1999)
ChildrenFrom first marriage:

Jennifer Mitchell Canady
Jaymie Mitchell Wright
Mason Basco

Amanda Basco Wellman
ParentsRichard and Edna Mitchell
Vernon Parish
Alma materBaker High School

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University Law Center
OccupationAttorney, judge, horse breeder
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
RankCaptain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps

James Richard "Jim" Mitchell (March 31, 1946 – July 24, 2015), was a lawyer and horse breeder from his adopted city of Leesville, Louisiana, who from 2009 until his death served as a judge of the state 30th Judicial District Court.


Born in Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana, Mitchell claims descent from one of the founding families of Vernon Parish.[1] One of four sons of Richard and Edna Mitchell, his brothers are Bob Mitchell of Edmond, Oklahoma, John Mitchell of Baton Rouge, and Tom Mitchell of Breaux Bridge in St. Martin Parish in South Louisiana. He was reared in Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish. As the valedictorian of the 1964 class of Baker High School, he was voted "Most Likely to Succeed". He received his undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and graduated from the Louisiana State University Law Center. Thereafter, he entered the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He was a captain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps office at Fort Polk near Leesville in Vernon Parish.[2]


During the early 1970s, Mitchell began his law practice in Leesville, which he maintained for thirty-five years.[2][3] For some three decades, Mitchell was active with the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association. He also served on the national board of the American Quarter Horse Association, based in Amarillo, Texas.[2] His horses, among them Martini Mountain ($421,147), Rakin In Romeo ($152,424), Grits Gator ($206,593), and the show horse Perfectly Suited, earned more than $1.4 million on the racetrack.[4]

In 1996, Mitchell, a Republican ran unsuccessfully for the 30th Judicial District Court in Division B but was defeated by the Democrat John Ford, 6,388 votes (66.4 percent) to 3,239 (33.6 percent).[5] In 2008, he ran for the Division C judgeship in the 30th District when the incumbent Lester Kees declined to seek re-election.[1] To win the judgeship, he defeated the Democrat (later Independent) Clay Williams, 5,990 votes (58.4 percent) to 4,276 (41.6 percent).[6] He was unopposed for his second term in 2014.

On the court for six and a half years, Mitchell handled many complex cases. Through the drug court program, he had great interest in helping youth to overcome alcohol and drug addiction.[2]

In 2010, Judge Mitchell sentenced Kendra Hoffpauir, a teacher's aide who confessed to engaging in sexual activity with a 15-year-old pupil, to seven years at hard labor, but he suspended four of those years. Hoffpauir pleaded guilty in Vernon Parish to carnal knowledge and indecent behavior with a juvenile. She had also faced four counts of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, a third count of carnal knowledge, and one of oral sexual battery. The Leesville Daily Leader reported that Mitchell set the sentences to run simultaneously. She was also fined $1,000 on each charge. Hoffpauir was working at Vernon Middle School when arrested. Some charges stemmed from her previous place of employment, Leesville Junior High School.[7]

In May 2015, the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit in Lake Charles upheld the conviction in Judge Mitchell's court of Jerry Vaughn Clifton (born c. 1937) of Anacoco in Vernon Parish, a 20-year veteran of the United States Army with service in the Vietnam War. In 2014, Mitchell sentenced Clifton to serve two consecutive 61-months of confinement at hard labor, just over ten years, for two counts of aggravated incest committed in 2001 against two of Clifton's step-granddaughters. Clifton was charged with the crimes nine years later in 2010 but did not face trial for four more years. He appealed to the circuit court on grounds that there were problems with three jurors biased against him and that the sentence was overly harsh. Speaking for the appeals court, Judge Elizabeth Pickett affirmed the conviction and said that the sentence was fitting for the crimes.[8][9]

Family and death[edit]

Mitchell was first married the former Laurel Jeanne Drushel (1948–2013), a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who in 1958 moved to Baton Rouge with her parents, Harry and Maxime Drushel. She helped to establish the Bridal Boutique in Baton Rouge before moving with her husband to Leesville in 1971. A seamstress and cook, she first attended LSU but obtained bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Northwestern State University. She taught at the NSU Fort Polk campus and later at Baton Rouge Community College and Lone Star College, a community college in Houston, Texas. She is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Leesville.[10] From this marriage, Judge Mitchell has two daughters, Jennifer Mitchell Canaday (born 1971) and her husband, Niholas, of Austin, Texas, and Jaymie Mitchell Wright (born 1976) and husband Sam of Leesville.

In 1999, Mitchell married the former Michelle Price Basco, his surviving widow, and acquired two step-children, Mason Basco and his fiancé, Nicole Crabb, of Leesville, and Amanda Basco Wellman and husband Brett of Slagle in Vernon Parish.[2] Judge Mitchell died of a sudden illness at the age of sixty-nine in Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana.[11] Services were held on July 28, 2015, at the East Leesville Baptist Church, with interment at Hicks Pentecostal Church Cemetery in the unincorporated community of Hicks in Vernon Parish.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Mitchell aims for District Judge seat". Leesville Daily Leader. July 20, 2008. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "The Honorable James Richard "Jim" Mitchell". The Baton Rouge Advocate. July 25, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  3. "Judge James R. Mitchell". 30jdc.org. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  4. "Longtime Louisiana Horseman and LQHBA Board Member Jim Mitchell Ill (published the day of Judge Mitchell's death)". stallionesearch.com. July 24, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  5. "Election Results". Louisiana Secretary of State. September 21, 1996. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  6. "Election Results, 30th Judicial District, Division C". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  7. "Teacher's aide gets hard labor for sex crime". legalnews.com. September 9, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  8. "State of Louisiana v. Jerry Vaughn Clifton". Caselaw.findlaw.com. May 27, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  9. "Jerry Clifton sentenced to 10 years". Leesville Daily Leader. May 16, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  10. "Memorial for Laurel Jeanne Mitchell". jeanesfs.com. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  11. "30th District Judge Jim Mitchell passes away". Leesville Daily Leader. July 25, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  12. "Obituary: Judge James "Jim" Mitchell". Leesville Daily Leader. Retrieved July 26, 2015.

Political offices
Preceded by
Lester P. Kees
Division C Judge of the Louisiana 30th Judicial District Court for Vernon Parish

James Richard "Jim" Mitchell
(alongside Vernon B. Clark and Anthony C. Eaves)

Succeeded by
Scott Westerchil

Others articles of the Topics Biography AND Louisiana : Ford E. Stinson Jr., Edmund Reggie, Eric John Brock, Morgan Wailes Walker, Sr., J.E. "Pat" Patterson, Andrew Jackson Sevier, Mildred Cleone Haynes Hodges

Others articles of the Topics Louisiana AND Law : Henry L. Yelverton, Monty M. Wyche, James Nelson Lee, Cecil C. Lowe, Ford E. Stinson Jr., Elizabeth Pickett (judge), Thornton F. Bell

Others articles of the Topics Biography AND Law : List of composers who studied law, Francis Xavier Ransdell, Cecil C. Lowe, Charles McConnell, Pat M. Baskin, Harmon Drew Jr., Frank Voelker Sr.

Others articles of the Topic Biography : Kevin F. Johnson, Ramón Núñez-Juárez, Clancy Lyall, Charles E. Grant, Chris O'Neill (Oney), Lane Patterson, Dimitrios BaltzisΔημήτριος Γ. Μπαλτζής

Others articles of the Topic Louisiana : Joe Cornelius Sr., George A. Burton, Louisiana Electorate of Gays And Lesbians, Jack Batton, Arthur Nelder Dawson Jr., W. E. Whetstone, William Putnam Sevier

Others articles of the Topic Law : List of composers who studied law, Frank Voelker Sr., Edmund Reggie, Larry Butz, Ford E. Stinson Jr., Charles McConnell, Rate of wrongful convictions in the United States

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