“Liberty and Justice for All”
As a boy, Joel G. Porter’s mother encouraged him with these wise words: “Son, if you study, work hard, keep your nose clean, and keep God at the center of your life, things will go well for you in this world.” This message, coupled with the message of paying honor to your mother and father, is what echoed repeatedly in the mind of young Porter as he sought to further his education.
At an early age, Porter had his eyes set on the practice of law. While attending Mckinley High School, when asked, “What his long-term aspirations were,” Porter fondly recalls telling his High School advisor, that he wanted to be a Judge so that he could “bring about justice in a world where there was none.” As Porter matured and successfully matriculated through Southern University, earning a Bachelors of Arts degree in Philosophy, he was inspired to join the United States Navy in service of his country. Upon his Honorable Discharge from the United States Navy, he entered the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in order to learn more about what he has described as a “calling” on his life. Graduating with honors with a Masters of Divinity degree in Historical and Theological Studies, Joel began preaching the “Word of God.”
As a pastor, while answering the many needs of his congregation and his community, Porter soon came to realize that acquiring a firm conceptual and technical grasp of the legal system could be an instrument of great service and benefit to his people. Joel immediately enrolled, and was accepted to the Southern University Law Center. Two years later, Joel was elected Student Bar Association (SBA) President. As a third year law student, Joel applied and was accepted and commissioned as a Jag Officer in the United States Navy. Porter went on to graduate from Southern University Law Center, Cum Laude, earning a Juris Doctorate degree.
Porter says, “If experience and qualification matters, this should not even be a contest because there is no other candidate running for judge for division K that has more experience or qualifications than me. There is absolutely no question about it, “I am by far the most qualified lawyer running for judge for division K, without a doubt.” “I find it somewhat audacious for my two opponents to ask voters to support and vote for them when neither one of them live in the district and can’t even for themselves,” said Porter. “I am the only candidate who actually lives in the district where the judgeship for division K is located.”
For the past twenty-eight (28) years, Porter has honored his commitment to be of service to all who call upon him and are in need. During that time, Porter has represented a cross-section of this community. After fighting for women’s rights, children’s rights, senior’s rights, civil rights, human rights and for justice and equality for people of color and as a criminal defense lawyer for the past twenty-eight years, my experiences with the criminal justice system and with members of the judiciary have afforded me a unique perspective of how racial and ethnic biases, racial disparities and systemic racism and injustices have acutely affected people of color. As a criminal defense lawyer, Porter has been a zealous advocate for “justice and fairness for all.” Reputed as a fearless and aggressive attorney, he has given a “voice to the voiceless” and fought back the tides of systemic racism and injustice within the criminal justice system and the judiciary. And when he was personally attacked, he put on the “whole armor of God” and successfully stood up against the principalities and powers of this city and state.
Porter says, he has personally witnessed the devastation caused to innocent black people being falsely accused, illegally arrested and wrongfully incarcerated. Being a crime victim himself, Porter knows the horrors and the heartbreak of losing a loved one to a violent crime and what it means to be treated unfairly as a victim and, subsequently, re-victimized by the very system whose duty it is to bring about just resolution in such cases of victimization. Three decades ago, Joel lost his wife to a crime of violence and, even though he was at work at the time of his wife’s death, thirty years later, after he filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to secure another black city court judgeship, Porter found himself subjected to the most unconscionable attacks and unbelievable public scrutiny by BRPD. In an attempt to paint a false narrative and portray Porter to the public as a person who was a villain, a disgraced Baton Rouge city police homicide investigator went as far as soliciting a local woman to say Porter was in Houston, Texas harassing her, even though at the time of the alleged incident, (March 24-25, 2014), Porter was in a very highly publicized jury trial in Judge Wilson Field’s courtroom in Baton Rouge. A Baton Rouge City Court Judge wrongfully signed a protective order against him; a protective order that neither met the legal or statutory requirements.
Thereafter, two Baton Rogue City Police officers, in collaboration with the disgraced homicide investigator, illegally and falsely arrested Porter even though he committed no crimes or participated in any illegal activities. Porter felt they were trying to “whip him” or “put him in his place.” Porter believes what the system put him through was designed to assassinate his name and character in order to neutralize him as a threat to the system. Porter spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending himself against these attacks and in clearing his name. At trial, the woman was proven to be a liar and the disgraced cop was eventually removed from the homicide investigation. Porter was finally and fully exonerated as a result of scientific, forensic and DNA testing, resulting in the discovery of the DNA from an unknown male suspect on the body of his wife.
Porter states, “What happened to me was criminal.” To add injury to insult neither the rogue cop or the female co-conspirator were investigated, arrested, charged or indicted by any prosecutorial agency.” What happened to Porter is emblematic of how black people and people of color are treated in this country by our criminal justice system and by members of the judiciary. While Porter fully understands the necessity of sound investigative protocol, beginning with the closest of kin and working your way outward, the poorly investigated and unprofessional encounter to which he was subjected by law enforcement went far beyond appropriate investigative techniques and into the realm of an attempted framing.
Porter vows, that if he were elected to the bench, he would never allow a citizen of this community to be victimized by the system as he was. “No victim will ever be re-victimized while I’m on the bench, he proclaims.” Porter believes without a doubt that he was treated the way he was because he was a black man and that he was not given the presumption of innocence, as a white person would be given who was unfortunately to find themselves in similar circumstance. He states, “This demonstrates how systematic racism is throughout the criminal justice system, including the judiciary.” “If I were a white lawyer I never would have been treated in such a racist manner, and with such blatant disregard for all the constitutional safeguards designed to protect citizens like me.”
Porter goes on to state, “what has been even more hurtful and heart-wrenching than the actions of these BRPD officers are the callous, uncaring and insensitive words, along with the rumor-mongering engaged in by certain prominent people in this community. “For God sake, I lost my wife, the love of my life, and for people to utter some of the mean-spirited and hurtful things that I’ve heard over the years is just unconscionable and downright sinful. But I forgive them and pray that God will forgive them as well.”
Porter is presently representing Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of Triple S Food Mart against Blane Salamoni and a number of other BRPD officers. Blane Salamoni is the disgraced BRPD officer who brutally shot and killed Alton Sterling. It was Porter, along with his client, Abdullah Muflahi, who had the wisdom and courage to release the video, which captured Alton Sterling’s killing, to the local and national media, even though Porter was firmly counseled against releasing the recording of the Sterling killing to the media. Porter’s decision to release the video was based upon the public’s need to be confronted with stark reality of police brutality from the perspective of Black people.
Today, Porter finds himself uniquely prepared to serve in the capacity of State District Court Judge. Having a keen understanding of the “laws of God” and of man, coupled with a willingness and ability to dispatch “fairness and justice” to all who find themselves humbly before the seat of Justice, Porter feels that at this time in our history as a nation, and at this place, he is being called upon to relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless and plead for the widow, because “Black Lives Matter.”
Porter believes that police brutality and systemic racism are the greatest threats to the health, wealth and safety of the black community. Black people are being murdered and brutalized by racist police with impunity all over the country. Porter has personally witnessed the devastating affects that the criminal justice system has on black families. He has seen insensitive judges disrespecting and degrading black men and women; speaking to them in the most inhumane and humiliating manner designed to strip them of their dignity, humanity and self-respect. He believes the criminal justice system should not be used as tool to repeatedly enslave Black people. He has drafted what he calls “The Porter Plan,” which sets forth dozens of judicial reforms and legislative initiatives to change not only the criminal justice system but the judiciary as well.
The “Porter Plan” is a bold and comprehensive plan that encompasses a wide-range of proposed reforms that if adopted will lead to the creation of a better, a fairer and more equitable judicial system in relationship to people of color. One of Porter’s top priorities, among many, is to fight for legislation to end the habitual offender statute which he believes is being abused to enslave black men and women and to extort plea deals from defendants. These laws allow for excessively harsh sentences resulting in mass incarceration for people of color. Further, he will fight for legislation to eliminate qualified immunity which allow racist police officers to escape liability when they brutalized and murder innocent Black men and women and people of color.
“Porter Plan” also promotes legislation to have monies that are seized by law enforcement agencies in drug crimes donated to community-based organization to help those communities most affected by drug crimes rather than to district attorney’s offices and law enforcement agencies. In addition, Porter vows, to fight for legislation to require defendants to be reimbursed attorney fees and damages when they are acquitted of a crime. Porter envisions these monies coming out of prosecutorial agencies’ budget rather than from taxpayers.
This legislation with caused prosecutors to be more circumspect when they are considering formally billing or indicting some innocent person. Moreover, Porter states that he will fight for legislation that makes it illegal for law enforcement to label someone a suspect or person of interest without having substantial evidence against him or her in the first place. This will prevent law enforcement agencies from defaming and ruin an innocent person’s reputation and character. Finally, Porter proposes legislation for the creation of an entirely new investigative agency and judicial system designed strictly for police brutality, excessive force and wrongful death claims at the hands of law enforcement.
Porter says, being black shouldn’t be a crime. What brings Porter to this point in life is the blatant lack of fairness and the racial and ethnic disparities being perpetrated on African American citizens and people of color in the State of Louisiana, in our nation and in the world at large. Systemic racism throughout the criminal justice system, including the judiciary, is one of the reasons the state of Louisiana has more people incarcerated than any country in the world. For decades Black people in this city trusted and accepted what was being forced upon them by the rich, powerful, and the ruling class, due primarily to our lack of representation at the table where goods, services and even justice itself were being meted out. This time we have a real choice and an opportunity to change the status quo and to elect a judge who will bring about the real and transformative change that is so desperately needed to make a fundamental difference in our community and state.
Now, as we stand at the precipice of history, after the killing of Alton Sterling by Blaine Salamoni and George Floyd at the “knee” of a racist police officer, people are protesting, and marching in city streets around the world, demanding real change within our society where all mankind will be treated with dignity and respect, and where African Americans and people of color will most assuredly abide under the protection of our institutions and their time-honored constitutional mandates. You have the opportunity on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, to bring about real change by electing a State District Court Judge who will protect your rights as citizens of this state and ensure that your fundamental entitlements under our constitutional safeguards are always protected. The question that the voters of this district must answer is, “do we go forward or do we continue to be denied the rights we’ve already fought for?” This time you have a choice and a say so. This time you can cast your vote for, “Liberty and Justice for All.”