Jimmy Dimos

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Jimmy N. Dimos​


Speaker of the
Louisiana House of Representatives​
In office
1988​ – 1992​
Preceded by John Alario
Succeeded by John Alario​

Louisiana State Representative
for District 16 (Ouachita Parish)​
In office
1976 ​ – 1999​
Preceded by H. Lawrence Gibbs
Succeeded by Kay Katz

Judge of the 4th Judicial District Court in Ouachita Parish​
In office
1999​ – December 31, 2006​
Preceded by Robert William "Bob" Kostelka​
Succeeded by Bernard Scott Leehy

Born October 18, 1938​
Macedonia (formerly Yugoslavia​)
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Dale Guilkey Dimos​
Children John, Laura, Myra, and Christy​
Alma mater Neville High School (Monroe)​

University of Louisiana at Monroe
Tulane University Law School​

Occupation Attorney
Religion Episcopalian

Jimmy N. Dimos (born October 18, 1938) is a retired state 4th Judicial District Court judge based in Monroe in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Dimos is also a Democratic former member of the state legislature, having served from 1976 to 1999. From 1988 to 1992, he was the House Speaker, the recommended choice of then Democratic Governor Buddy Roemer.​

Background

Dimos (pronounced "DEE MOSE") is a native of the Republic of Macedonia. He immigrated to the United States in 1951. His future Louisiana House colleague, Ron Gomez of Lafayette, described him, accordingly, when he nominated Dimos to be the House Speaker:​

"This is a man who arrived alone in New York City at age 12 after a lonely flight from his home in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He could not speak Englis]. He would not see his mother for another six months when she would finally be allowed to come to America. In New York, this 12-year-old found that his continuing flights to Monroe,Louisiana, where his father waited, could not be completed for two more days. From this shaky start in this new world, Jimmy Dimos proceeded to learn English, put himself through high school, college and law school and serve three previous disntinguished terms in this House of Representatives. Yes, he is a man of courage -- a man of integrity, and a man who I am proud to nominate as Speaker. May we stand united. He and we who are committed to working toward those changes so desperately needed in this state will need your understanding, your guidance, you tolerance and . . . your prayers."[1]

In 1956, Dimos graduated from Neville High School in Monroe. In 1960, he received his bachelor's degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana State College). In 1963, Dimos garnered a degree from the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. The next year he was admitted to the bar and joined the McKeithen, Mouser and McKinley law firm. The "McKeithen" in the partnership was John J. McKeithen of Columbia in Caldwell Parish, who served as governor from 1964 to 1972.​[2]

Dimos is married to the former Dale Guilkey. They have four children — John, Laura, Myra, and Christy.​[2] Before he entered the legislature, Dimos was the executive director from 1971 to 1972 of the Miss Louisiana Pageant. In his younger years, he was active in the Louisiana Jaycees. Thereafter, he was in the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary International. He is Episcopalian.​[2]

Legislative service, 1976 to 1999

​ Dimos was elected to the District 16 House seat in Ouachita Parish in 1975, the same year that Governor Edwin Edwards won the second of his four gubernatorial terms. Dimos became a reformer in the legislature and was hence tapped by Roemer as Speaker in 1988. While Roemer switched parties in 1991, Dimos remained a Democrat. In Louisiana, the governor has traditionally exercised such influence in the selection of the House speaker as to be tantamount to formal election by the representatives themselves.​ Even in 2020, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards managed to get a Moderate Republican, rather than a conservative for the Speaker's office.

According to Rom Gomez, who served with Dimos on the Commerce Committee, the Monroe Democrat was known for his "unswerving defense of the trial lawyers in the tort reform battles [but] he was a good 'business' vote on practically every other issue. He was also a long-time personal friend of Buddy Roemer."[3]

Dimos was strongly pro-life in his legislative career. He opposed Roemer's veto of a bill, sponsored by Representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge, which would have outlawed most abortions in Louisiana and presumably resulted in a legal challenge in federal courts.​

When Dimos became Speaker, Allen Bares of Lafayette, with Roemer's blessing, began a two-year stint as Senate President, although another candidate, Sydney B. Nelson of Shreveport, had been seeking the position for months by arranging private meetings with colleagues in their Senate districts.[4]

Defending controversial Tulane scholarships

​ Representative Dimos rose to defend an old state law which permits Tulane, his alma mater, to avoid paying taxes to the state. The university instead places scholarship waivers into the hands of state legislators and the mayor of New Orleans, who then select the recipients. The purpose of the law was to make a college education available to qualified citizens who could not otherwise engage in formal higher education. Lawsuits have divulged that many of the recipients have been the well-to-do relatives of Louisiana judges and legislators.​

In 1996, then state Representative and later U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator David Vitter, a Metairie Republican and also a Tulane alumnus, tried to end the program. Vitter's House Bill 41, a proposed amendment to the Louisiana Constitution, failed 44-57 in the House. Vitter said that the change is needed to end the controversy that began with revelations that lawmakers had awarded the scholarships to themselves, their children, and relatives of contributors.​

Although reforms were made, Vitter said the program is open for continued abuse. His bill would have phased out the Tulane scholarships, which were then worth about $20,000 per year, by the 1999-2000 academic year so those who are using the grants could finish their academic careers. The measure also would have stripped Tulane of property tax breaks the legislature approved in 1884, when the university started making the scholarships available.​

Dimos emerged as the House's foremost defender of Tulane. Any abuses were not the fault of Tulane, he argued, but of lawmakers who had undermined the intent of an otherwise worthy program. Since then, most of the legislators have relinquished the scholarship-recipient selection process to committees of citizens at arm's length from the individual legislator.[5]

District judge, 1999 to 2006

Dimos resigned from the legislature when he was elected to the 4th Judicial District bench to succeed Republican Judge Robert William "Bob" Kostelka, who resigned from the 4th District state judgeship when he was elected without opposition to the state Second Circuit Court of Appeal. Dimos won the special election for judge that was held on March 27, 1999. In a low-turnout contest, he polled 5,430 votes (64 percent) to Republican Marshall Sanson's 3,081 votes (36 percent).​

Dimos has, however, been criticized by attorneys who claim that he is too quick to prejudge a case and that he often coerces one side into settling by threatening that party with an even bigger judgment if they proceed to "put on" their case.​

"The law is a fascinating profession. ... You've got to enjoy it to be in it, and I enjoyed it," Dimos said. When he was asked what he would most miss about serving as a judge, Dimos told the Ouachita Citizen newspaper in West Monroe that he liked the interaction with attorneys and their clients, as well as the camaraderie with other judges. He also said that he enjoyed presiding over jury trials. Dimos said, however, that he "will not miss having to decide which parent gets custody of a child. I hate seeing those cases come to court, but sometimes it can't be avoided."​​

In 2003, Dimos underwent treatment for cancer of the throat, but he was later declared cancer-free. He said that his health played no role in his decision to retire. "I love people. I love to help them. I love to help them solve their problems. If you don't like doing that, you don't need to be in public service," he added. Dimos indicated that he would rejoin his former Monroe law firm—Brown, Erskine, and Burkett—on a reduced schedule.​

Jeffrey L. "Jeff" Hawley, a Monroe investments broker and fellow Rotarian with Dimos, described the judge as "a really nice guy who has accomplished a lot, beginning with little, but great ethics and a work ethic. A classic American dream!" Dimos is also a formidable poker player.​

Dimos left the bench on December 31, 2006, and was succeeded by Republican Scott Leehy.​

References

  1. Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0-9700156-0-7, pp. 190-191.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jimmy Dimos. enlou.com (website no longer on line..
  3. Ron Gomez, pp. 179, 187.
  4. Ron Gomez, p. 185.
  5. Ed Anderson, "Tulane scholarships survive," The New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 30, 1996, p. A-2.

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