Jim Mitchell

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James Richard "Jim" Mitchell

Division C Judge of the
Louisiana 30th Judicial District
In office
January 2009 – July 24, 2015
Preceded by Lester Kees
Succeeded by Scott Westerchil

Born March 31, 1946
Shreveport, Louisiana
Died July 24, 2015
Alexandria, Louisiana
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Laurel Jeanne Drushel Mitchell (divorced)

(2) Michelle Price Basco Mitchell (married 1999-2015, his death)

Children From first marriage:

Jennifer Mitchell Canaday
Jaymie Mitchell Wright
Mason Basco
Amanda Basco Wellman

Occupation Lawyer; horse breeder
Religion Baptist

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 his state's 30th Judicial District Court.


Born in Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana, Mitchell claims descent from one of the founding families of Vernon Parish.[1] He was one of four sons of Richard and Edna Mitchell; his three 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 LSU 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 the Fort Polk base near Leesville.[1][2]


In 1974, Mitchell began his law practice in Leesville, which he maintained for thirty-five years until he became judge.[2][3] For some three decades, Mitchell was active with the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association. He 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, having been 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, did not seek re-election.[1] Mitchell defeated a Democrat (later Independent), Clay Williams, 5,990 (58.4 percent) to 4,276 (41.6 percent).[6] He was unopposed for his second term in 2014.

Court cases

On the court for six and a half years, Mitchell handled many complex cases. Through the drug court program, he sought to help 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 she was arrested. Some of the 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 United States Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War. In 2014, Mitchell sentenced Clifton to two consecutive 61-months of confinement at hard labor, just over ten years, for double 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 another four 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

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. She first attended LSU but obtained bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. 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 the capital city of Austin, Texas, and Jaymie Mitchell Wright (born 1976) and husband Sam of Leesville.

In 1999, Mitchell married the former Michelle Price Basco 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 1.2 Mitchell aims for District Judge seat. Leesville Daily Leader (July 20, 2008). Retrieved on 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 on July 26, 2015.
  3. Judge James R. Mitchell. 30jdc.org. Retrieved on 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 on July 26, 2015.
  5. Election Results. Louisiana Secretary of State (September 21, 1996). Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  6. -Election Results, 30th Judicial District, Division C. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  7. Teacher's aide gets hard labor for sex crime. legalnews.com (September 9, 2010). Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  8. State of Louisiana v. Jerry Vaughn Clifton. Caselaw.findlaw.com (May 27, 2015). Retrieved on July 23, 2017.
  9. Jerry Clifton sentenced to 10 years. Leesville Daily Leader (May 16, 2014). Retrieved on July 20, 2017.
  10. Memorial for Laurel Jeanne Mitchell. jeanesfs.com. Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  11. 30th District Judge Jim Mitchell passes away. Leesville Daily Leader (July 25, 2015). Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  12. Obituary: Judge James "Jim" Mitchell. Leesville Daily Leader. Retrieved on July 26, 2015.