Charles Cusimano

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Charles Vincent
"Chuck" Cusimano, II


Louisiana State Representative for District 81 (Jefferson Parish)
In office
1980–1988
Succeeded by David Duke

Judge of the 24th Judicial District Court (Jefferson Parish)
In office
1988–2007
Succeeded by Cornelius E. "Conn" Regan

Justice of the Peace in Jefferson Parish
Incumbent
Assumed office 
2009

Born November 25, 1953
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican
Spouse(s) Kathleen F. Cusimano
Children Katie Cusimano Blanchard

Charles V. Cusimano, III
Staci Cusimano Garrity
Krissie Cusimano Ziifle
Joshua Michael Cusimano
Gabriel Michael Cusimano
Michael Raphael Cusimano
Nathaniel Raphael Cusimano
Parents:
Charles, Sr., and Violet Taranto Cusimano

Residence Metairie, Jefferson Parish
Alma mater Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge)
Occupation Attorney

Charles Vincent Cusimano, II, known as Chuck Cusimano (born November 25, 1953), is a Republican politician from the large census-designated place of Metairie in Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans, Louisiana. A justice of the peace, he is the highest paid judge in Louisiana.

Background

Cusimano is the son of Charles Vincent "Charlie" Cusimano, I, a New Orleans native,[1] and the former Violet Taranto (1928-2015). In addition to their one son, Charles, II, the Cusimanos had three daughters, Lisa Cusimano (formerly Lisa Brewer), Jan Simon (husband David), and Cathy Daigle (husband Keith).[2] The senior Cusimano is an engineering graduate of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, a former member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, and the founder of Energy Corporation of America. Cusimano, I, has also been active in Republican Party affairs and was a major fund raiser for former Governor Murphy James Foster, Jr.[3] Cusimano was already contributing to the Ronald W. Reagan campaign in 1980, while his son was a Democrat in the state legislature.[4]

Cusimano and his wife, Kathleen F. Cusimano (born 1955), have eight children.[5]

Legislative career

At the age of twenty-five, just as he launched his law practice, Cusimano was elected in 1979 as a Democrat to the District 81 seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives. He switched to Republican affiliation at the start of his second term, 1984 to 1988.[6] He served on the House committees on Criminal Justice, Civil Law, and Natural Resources.[7] On October 24, 1987, he was elected again, having defeated fellow Republican Steve Little, 9,650 (65.2 percent) to 5,165 (34.8 percent) in the nonpartisan blanket primary.[8]

Cusimano was described by his House colleague, Ron Gomez of Lafayette, as "a diminitive firebrand from Metairie."[9] In House debate over the New Orleans Saints's lease of the Louisiana Superdome (since the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Cusimano proposed an amendment that would restrict the team's concession revenues to a minimum level, after which the proceeds would be split 50-50 with the state). The amendment, strongly opposed by the Saints' owner, Thomas Milton "Tom" Benson (1927-2018), appeared to have passed until Governor Edwin Edwards, in an unprecedented move, came to the chamber to plead with the lawmakers to reverse themselves. Edwards claimed that the Cusimano amendment would cause the Saints, then a repeatedly losing team, to leave New Orleans and practically make the state the laughingstock of the nation. After the visibly shaken Edwards spoke, Representative Raymond Laborde of Marksville, Edwards' friend from childhood, stepped to the microphone and moved that the previous amendment be deleted. No debate was allowed on the previous question, and Benson and Edwards prevailed.[10]

Cusimano resigned from the legislature in 1988 to become a 24th Judicial District Court judge, a position that he held from 1988 to 2007.[7] His resignation from the legislature triggered a special election in District 81. Several Republicans sought to succeed Representative Cusimano, including future Republican state chairman, Roger F. Villere, Jr., a Metairie floral shop owner. However, the two candidates who reached the runoff election were Republicans John Treen, brother of former Governor David C. Treen, and David Duke, nationally known as a former figure in the Ku Klux Klan. Duke narrowly won the race over Treen, who enjoyed the backing of most state and national Republicans, including U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush and former President Reagan, who opposed Duke's candidacy. Duke claimed that Treen, if elected, was willing to see property tax increases in the suburban New Orleans district.[11]

Among those working in the John Treen campaign were Democrat Victor Bussie, long-term president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, and Beth Rickey of New Orleans, a moderate member of the Republican State Central Committee who later exposed Duke's continuing neo-Nazi ties.[12]

Judicial experience

In 1998, while still a judge of the 24th District, Cusimano ran for the Louisiana Supreme Court, a ten-year term, against Justice Pascal Frank Calogero, Jr. (1931-2018), a Democrat. Calogero led with 77,766 votes (49.5 percent), and Cusimano polled 64,711 ballots (41.2 percent). A third candidate held the remaining 8 percent of the vote.[13] Because Calogero nearly won the position outright in the primary, Cusimano decided not to contest the general election.

On the district court, Judge Cusimano was instrumental in revamping the criminal justice computer system.[7] In 2006, he did not seek reelection and was succeeded by Republican Cornelius E. "Conn" Regan, a narrow winner over Danyelle Taylor, also a Republican.[14] In 2008, Cusimano was unopposed for the position of Fifth Justice of the Peace Court in Jefferson Parish.[15] Cusimano worked to modernize justice-of-the-peace operations, with electronic case management to allow litigants to file electronically and monitor the status of their case via the Internet.[7] His current term expires on December 31, 2020.[16]

Though the JP position is part-time, Cusimano in 2012 earned some $200,000 annually, more than any other judge in Louisiana. His compensation is primarily derived from a portion of office filing fees that he is allowed to keep. Many other JPs, depending on their location, earn only a fraction of what Judge Cusimano draws.[17]

References

  1. Charles Cusimano, I. The New Orleans Times-Picayune (April 3, 2020). Retrieved on April 5, 2020.
  2. Violet Cusimano Obituary. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on November 15, 2019.
  3. Charles V. Cusimano: Hall of Distinction, 1998-1999. eng.lsu.edu/alumni. Retrieved on November 11, 2009; no longer on-line.
  4. Metairie, LA Political Contributions by Individuals. city-data.com. Retrieved on November 15, 2019.
  5. People Search & Background Check
  6. Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2020 (Jefferson Parish). Louisiana House of Representatives. Retrieved on November 15, 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 About Judge Charles V. Cusimano, II. fifthjpc.com. Retrieved on November 11, 2009; no longer on-line.
  8. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns for Jefferson Parish, October 24, 1987.
  9. Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative (Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000), p. 134, isbn=0-9700156-0-7
  10. Ron Gomez, pp. 134-137.
  11. Douglas D. Rose, The Emergence of David Duke and the Politics of Race (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), p. iii (ISBN 0807843814, ISBN 978-0-8078-4381-9). See also Michael Zatarain, David Duke: Evolution of a Klansman (Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing, 1990), ISBN 0-88289-817-5, ISBN 978-0-88289-817-9.
  12. Patricia Sullivan, "Beth Rickey dies with an immune disorder and Crohn's disease." The Washington Post, September 16, 2009.
  13. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 3, 1998.
  14. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, September 30, 2006.
  15. Fall 2008 Candidate Guide for Jefferson Parish. League of Women Voters of New Orleans. Retrieved on November 11, 2009; no longer on-line.
  16. Elected Officials (Jefferson Parish). Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on November 15, 2019.
  17. I-Team: Justice of the Peace job means big money -- for some: Part-time job can generate nearly $200k in income. WDSU-TV (NBC in Baton Rouge) (May 9, 2014). Retrieved on April 5, 2020.