In his nearly 18 years on the bench, 26th Judicial District Judge Ford Stinson has learned never to say he's seen it all.
As he reflected on his career as retirement approaches at the end of the year, it was a live alligator that was brought into a Bossier Parish courtroom that stood out.
"When we walked into the courtroom, I kept noticing a wildlife agent on the front row," Stinson said. "He had a croker sack he was wrestling with."
A man was on trial for possession of an alligator without a permit. His defense was that the animal was not an alligator, but a caiman, a South African crocodile.
When the state was called to present its evidence in the case, the agent brought the four-foot-long reptile – mouth taped shut – to the witness stand for Stinson's inspection.
Stinson determined the animal in question to be an alligator.
The senior and chief judge of Bossier & Webster announced his retirement this week. His term ends December 31.
Though friends and supporters have encouraged Stinson to continue his career, the judge said he doesn't see any more campaigns in his future.
"It's been a good 18 years," Stinson said. "I don't feel like I have lost the edge, but I don't care to get to that point. I don't want to get to the point of being burned out."
Stinson and wife Suzanne have four sons and five grandchildren – two boys and three girls. Another granddaughter is due in February.
"I think I have kids looking forward to having a babysitter," Stinson said. Or he joked that his son may give him a job in his newly remodeled law office in Benton.
Stinson's family legacy of public service in Bossier Parish dates back to the late 1800s when his great-great grandfather served as sheriff.
Other family patriarchs have served as parish and state officials and his mother, Edna Earle Richardson Stinson, was the first woman in parish history to serve as foreman of a Bossier Parish grand jury.
Another determining factor in the timing of Stinson's announcement was to allow potential candidates adequate time to campaign for the seat.
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