• Justice Matters with Attorney John "Juan" Redmann: Interview with the Honorable Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • September 22, 2011
  • Law Firm: Law Office of John W. Redmann, LLC - Metairie Office
  • Judge Lemmon serves as a trial judge in the federal court system for a region that covers most of southeastern Louisiana.  She served as an elected state court judge in her hometown of Hahnville, Louisiana, from the time of her first election, in 1981, until she was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1996.  She is widely regarded as a very fair, intelligent, and dedicated judge, and we are pleased to publish her thoughtful responses to Mr. Redmann's questions for our readers:

    REDMANN: What made you want to become a judge?

    JUDGE LEMMON: When I was a little girl, I often followed my father, who was a lawyer, when he went to court.  Of course, I always looked up to him, and I marveled at the way that he worked to help people who were facing problems.  But I also saw that there was this other person, the judge, who played a very important part in directing the process which determined the fate of so many people.  I knew from a very early age that that was the way I wanted to make a difference in the world. 

    REDMANN: What are some of the biggest misunderstandings about judges that you think the citizenry may have, and how would you like to correct them?

    JUDGE LEMMON: Unfortunately, many people believe that judges are subject to influence by their friendships or that they can be bribed to reach a certain result.  The perception is fostered by many television programs and, sadly, by the actions of some corrupt judges.

    Because the role we play profoundly impacts peoples' lives, it is extremely important that we do not give the impression of partiality, and even more important that we are, in fact, impartial.

    REDMANN: What is a good day like?  A bad day?

    JUDGE LEMMON: For my courtroom, a good day is a day when the lawyers come into court prepared for their clients' case, and are courteous to their opponents and the court.  A bad day is one where the lawyers are rude to each other or to the court, and are not prepared for the case they are handling.  Not surprisingly, these things go hang in hang: Unprepared lawyers are rude and defensive while well-prepared lawyers are courteous and respectful.

    REDMANN: Do the United States Constitution and other laws provide rights to non-citizens and illegal aliens?

    JUDGE LEMMON: Citizenship confers a number of special rights upon those who obtain it, from the right to elect our leaders or even run for office oneself to serving on juries.  However, the laws of the United States protect anyone who is here, whether or not they are citizens.

    The recent decision in the Guantanamo detainees case reaffirms that the rule of law requires providing fair process to all people regardless of their citizenship.  This is a poignant reminder that all people have constitutional guarantees, and that America's core values must be applied to citizens as well as non-citizens. 

    REDMANN: Please describe experience of swearing in new American citizens.

    JUDGE LEMMON: One of my favorite duties is administering the oath of citizenship to new American citizens.  My speech to them is a pep talk, congratulating them on the honor of becoming an American, and encouraging them to fully participate in their citizenship by voting, by serving on juries when called, and by participating in community, church, and school activities.  Many of the new citizens are very emotional at the ceremony.  Those of us who were born into citizenship tend to take our status for granted.  It is inspiring to see how thrilled these people are to join us.