LIGI: Why All The Wendy Vitter Vitriol, James Gill?

Editor’s Note: A guest post from Anthony Ligi, a Kenner-based attorney practicing since 1982  and former Louisiana state representative who has known Wendy Vitter for quite some time.

Like all of us, I’m used to James Gill’s often over-the-top, virulent attacks on public figures.  But his recent assault on Wendy Vitter was completely baseless and mean-spirited, even by his standards.

He claimed in a recent column that, were Wendy Vitter to become a federal judge, the question would be “whether she will have any idea what she is doing” since there is “absolutely nothing in her background” to suggest she would be competent.

Really?  Well, James Gill has proved one thing: He’s probably never met Wendy Vitter . . . and certainly never observed her at work, including in the courtroom.

I have.  As a practicing attorney for 35 years, I have long known of Wendy Vitter’s legal work and professional reputation.  So although James Gill may have more years in his profession of spewing vitriol than I in my chosen profession of law, here is the real truth.

Wendy Vitter is one of the most talented prosecutors I have ever known.  She’s tried literally over 100 felony cases, including dozens of murder and rape trials.  She successfully tried the first murder case in Louisiana to use then-groundbreaking DNA evidence, although the conviction in the end hinged on more traditional evidence.  She procured the death penalty for the brutal, horrific murder of a local Catholic priest. She personally counseled and mentored a mentally disabled African American rape victim to get her through a difficult rape trial that brought justice to her assailant and some peace and closure to her.

Wendy Vitter was also a very respected supervisor, serving as Chief of Trials in that same Orleans DAs office.

Following her prosecuting career, Wendy pursued a successful private practice at a respected civil litigation firm.  There she focused almost exclusively on maritime litigation, which is all in federal court.

Now Wendy serves as General Counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a major entity and employer in our area. That means that dozens of pastors, school principals, managers of nursing homes, human resource managers, Catholic Charities leaders, not to mention Archbishop Aymond, have her on speed dial.  She handles complex and challenging litigation, employment, contract, immigration, and other legal matters daily.

This is a legal career that’s not narrow and minutely focused, as so many are.  It’s broad as well as deep, a great background for a federal judge.

Throughout all of this, what stands out most is what others who have worked with Wendy Vitter say about her.  And that includes opposing counsel who she has fought against in the courtroom.  From opposing counsel to colleagues to clients to judges she’s appeared before, she universally gets extremely high marks for professionalism and effectiveness.

Which begs the question: Why did James Gill write such an unfair hit piece?

Two thoughts come to my mind.  First and most obvious, Wendy is married to David Vitter, who liberal columnists like Gill still love to hate.

But my second thought may hit the mark even more.  As James Gill knows or suspects, Wendy Vitter would clearly be a judicial conservative on the bench–someone who would apply the law as written by democratically elected legislatures, not make it up to advance her personal views or those of the liberal elite.

A smart, competent judicial conservative–who’s an accomplished woman no less.  The liberal press’ worst nightmare.

No wonder James Gill writes that he would prefer for the nominee to be chosen from the “slew of attorneys spending their Friday lunchtime at Galatoire’s.”  That is a really special standard for a Federal Court Judge, Mr. Gill.  Thank goodness we’ve grown beyond that as the vetting ground for federal judges.

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