The Honorable Anastasia Wiley, Judge of the Eighth Judicial District Court for Winn Parish, based here in Winnfield, spoke to Winnfield’s Rotary Club members on Wednesday, January 5, as the guest of Rotarian of the day, Chesney Chandler. Judge Wiley, who established her law practice in Winnfield 24 years ago, follows in the footsteps of her father, Jim Wiley, who first served this community as Winnfield City Judge and then as district judge for many years.
Judge Staci Wiley was Winnfield’s City Judge from 2008 through 2020, and ascended to the Eighth JDC bench on January 1, 2021. Judge Wiley is active in membership of judicial organizations in Louisiana, having served as president of the Louisiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Louisiana City Judges Association. She also serves on the Board of Governors of the Louisiana Judicial College, which is charged with providing high quality comprehensive professional development and training for judges in Louisiana to ensure quality administration of justice for all citizens of Louisiana. Indeed, she recently took office as Treasurer of the Board, and will move up the slate of officers of the Board to eventually serve as president.
Judge Wiley tries to bring a rural perspective to the issues and responsibilities of the judicial college’s board, as she has to the other organizations in which she has served. She also brings her own unique communication and administration styles to the district bench in the coming years, planning to introduce more new technology to the administration of the court docket, and the most technologically advanced computerized legal research system provided by Westlaw, which is now available to courts for a much lower cost than it has previously been.
Judge Wiley’s priorities are to strengthen the integrity, dignity and efficiency of the Eighth Judicial District Court. She expects attorneys, litigants and witnesses coming to the court to be dressed appropriately in business-like attire, to appear in court timely, and to be prepared to proceed. Appearing timely in her court means being in the courtroom at 9:00 a.m., as she convenes court 30 minutes earlier than her predecessor. She also does everything possible to maintain a professional and congenial relationship with the clerk of court’s office, the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office, all of whom are part of the system of justice in this parish.
She has built on and adjusted the good system of court management her predecessor, Judge Derr, left in place, adapting daily to the requirements of the cases and the needs of the litigants before her. In addition to the earlier time for opening of court, she holds pretrial conferences in the courtroom with a court reporter rather than in chambers. If an unclear or unfamiliar issue of law arises in the course of a trial or hearing, Judge Wiley takes a recess so she can “look in the books” to determine what the statute or case at issue provides.
Another modification Judge Wiley has made in her courtroom is to draft in-court orders in cases where a settlement agreement is recited into the record on the day of hearing or trial, assigning counsel who is to prepare the written order or judgment and providing a deadline for submission of the written order or judgment to the court for signature. If a matter is set for a follow-up court appearance or postponed for some reason, Judge Wiley sets the new date for hearing the matter and prepares a notice containing the new date in the courtroom, so that service of the notice on all parties may be done immediately, thus avoiding delays in setting the case for hearing again as well as additional cost for formal service of the notice by the sheriff’s office.
Most of the cases on the civil side of Judge Wiley’s docket involve divorce, child custody and automobile accidents and injuries. However, the civil matters which come before the district court cover a very wide range of topics, governed by many different Louisiana statutes and cases, and require more reference to the statutes and caselaw. Criminal matters, on the other hand, have a narrower range of subject matter and procedural guidelines, so the applicable law is well known by those who deal in that area of the law and much less likely to change over time.
According to Judge Wiley, the majority of cases in her court are criminal cases rather than civil matters. On criminal court days, she attends to matters involving persons who are being held in jail before handling those whose defendants are out on bail. She has modified the hearing of criminal cases so that all misdemeanor cases are heard on one day out of the month. She reserves two days out of her criminal week for bench trial of felony cases, along with Friday of that week for completion of a case if needed.
Since COVID restrictions have been relaxed, Judge Wiley has presided over two jury trials, both criminal matters, one with a six-person jury and the other with a twelve-person jury. She has another scheduled for February and expects that it will proceed as scheduled, although it is difficult to put the 100-person jury pool in the courtroom with the social-distancing limitations in place to avoid spreading COVID. In 2022, 19 weeks are set aside for jury trials.
Judge Wiley reports that she and the Winn Parish Police Jury have come to an amicable agreement regarding the funds which will be provided from the parish’s general fund to operate the court on a monthly basis. The court has a new telephone system and an upgraded computer system so that everyone is on the internet and has email access. Protective glass has been installed in the courtroom with money provided by the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the police jury purchased a new speaker system for the courtroom. The other technological advancement in progress for the court is a new website.
After Judge Wiley answered all the audience’s questions, the Rotary meeting was adjourned with its motto: “Service above self!”
The Rotary Club of Winnfield meets every Wednesday at 12 Noon for lunch at Lynda’s Country Kitchen. For more information about the Rotary Club of Winnfield, you may contact President, Jodi Taylor (832) 573-5085 or President-Elect, Mary Lou Blackely at (318)481-0227. You can also find club information on Facebook at Rotary Club of Winnfield Facebook Page or online at Rotary.org