Jimmy N. Dimos
|Louisiana State Representative for|
District 16 (Ouachita Parish)
|Preceded by||H. Lawrence Gibbs, Jr.|
|Succeeded by||Kay Kellogg Katz|
|Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives (from Ouachita Parish)|
|Preceded by||John A. Alario, Jr.|
|Succeeded by||John A. Alario, Jr.|
|Fourth Judicial District Court Judge from Ouachita Parish|
1999 – December 31, 2006
|Preceded by||Robert W. "Bob" Kostelka|
|Succeeded by||Bernard Scott Leehy|
|Born||October 18, 1938|
Republic of Macedonia, formerly Yugoslavia
|Spouse(s)||Dale Guilkey Dimos|
|Children||John, Laura, Myra, and Christy|
|Alma mater||Neville High School|
Tulane University Law School
Jimmy N. Dimos (born October 18, 1938, in the Republic of Macedonia) is a retired Louisiana 4th Judicial District Court judge based in Monroe in Ouachita Parish, Ouachita Parish. Dimos (pronounced "DEE MOSE") is also a Democratic former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, having served from 1976 to 1999. From 1988 to 1992, he was the Speaker of the House, the recommended choice of then Democratic Governor Buddy Roemer.
Early years, education, family
"This is a man who arrived alone in New York City at age 12 after a lonely flight from his home in Bitola, Yugoslavia. He could not speak English. He would not see his mother for another six months when she would finally be allowed to come to America. In New York, this 12-year-old found that his continuing flights to Monroe, Louisiana, where his father waited, could not be completed for two more days. From this shaky start in this new world, Jimmy Dimos proceeded to learn English, put himself through high school, college and law school and serve three previous disntinguished terms in this House of Representatives. Yes, he is a man of courage -- a man of integrity, and a man who I am proud to nominate as Speaker. May we stand united. He and we who are committed to working toward those changes so desperately needed in this state will need your understanding, your guidance, you tolerance and . . . your prayers."
In 1956, Dimos graduated from Neville High School in Monroe. In 1960, he received his bachelor's degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana State College). In 1963, Dimos garnered a degree from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. The next year he was admitted to the bar and joined the McKeithen, Mouser and McKinley law firm. The "McKeithen" in the partnership was John Julian McKeithen of Columbia in Caldwell Parish, who served as governor of Louisiana from 1964 to 1972. He then founded his own law firm with Donald Brown and David Erskine in 1974, which today is known as Dimos Erskine. Dimos became "Of Counsel" in 2007.
Dimos is married to the former Dale Guilkey. They have four children — John, Laura, Myra, and Christy — and eight grandchildren, as of June 2017.
Before he entered the legislature, Dimos was the executive director from 1971 to 1972 of the Miss Louisiana Pageant. In his younger years, he was active in the Louisiana Jaycees. Dimos is a past President of the Monroe Jaycees, and was honored as Jaycee's Outstanding Young Man of the Twin Cities in 1971 and as one of Jaycee's Three Outstanding Young Men in Louisiana in 1971. Thereafter, he was in the Optimist Club of Greater Monroe, Chamber of Commerce and Rotary International. Dimos is a past Vice-President of the Optimist Club and a past President of the Northeast Louisiana University Alumni Association. He is Episcopalian.
Legislative service, 1976-1999
Dimos was elected to the District 16 House seat in Ouachita Parish in 1975, the same year that Governor Edwin Washington Edwards won the second of his four gubernatorial terms. Dimos became a reformer in the legislature and was hence tapped by Roemer as Speaker in 1988. While Roemer switched parties in 1991, Dimos remained a Democrat. In Louisiana, the governor has traditionally exercised such influence in the selection of the House speaker as to be tantamount to formal election by the representatives themselves. This situation changed in 2016, when a Republican-majority state House declined to accept the choice for Speaker of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.
According to Rom Gomez, who served with Dimos on the Commerce Committee, the Monroe Democrat was known for his "unswerving defense of the trial lawyers in the tort reform battles [but] he was a good 'business' vote on practically every other issue. He was also a long-time personal friend of Buddy Roemer."
Dimos was strongly pro-life in his legislative career. He opposed Roemer's veto of a bill, sponsored by Representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge, which would have outlawed most abortions in Louisiana and presumably resulted in a legal challenge in federal court.
When Dimos became Speaker, Allen Bares of Lafayette, with Roemer's blessing, began a two-year stint as Senate President, although another candidate, Sydney B. Nelson of Shreveport, had been seeking the position for months by arranging private meetings with colleagues in their Senate districts.
Defending controversial Tulane scholarships
Representative Dimos rose to defend an old state law which permits Tulane, his alma mater, to avoid paying taxes to the state. The university instead places scholarship waivers into the hands of state legislators and the mayor of New Orleans, who then select the recipients. The purpose of the law was to make a college education available to qualified citizens who could not otherwise engage in formal higher education. In recent years, lawsuits have divulged that many of the recipients have been the well-to-do relatives of Louisiana judges and legislators.
In 1996, then state Representative and later U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator David Vitter, a Metairie Republican and also a Tulane alumnus, tried to end the program. Vitter's House Bill 41, a proposed amendment to the Louisiana Constitution, failed 44-57 in the House. Vitter said that the change is needed to end the controversy that began with revelations that lawmakers had awarded the scholarships to themselves, their children, and relatives of contributors.
Although reforms were made, Vitter said the program is open for continued abuse. His bill would have phased out the Tulane scholarships, which were then worth about $20,000 per year, by the 1999-2000 academic year so those who are using the grants could finish their academic careers. The measure also would have stripped Tulane of the property tax breaks the legislature approved in 1884, when the university started making the scholarships available.
Dimos emerged as the House's foremost defender of Tulane. Any abuses were not the fault of Tulane, he argued, but of lawmakers who had undermined the intent of an otherwise worthy program. Since then, most of the legislators have relinquished the scholarship-recipient selection process to committees of citizens at arm's length from the individual legislator.
District judge, 1999-2006
Dimos resigned from the legislature when he was elected to the Fourth District bench to succeed Republican Judge Robert W. "Bob" Kostelka. Kostelka had stepped down from the judgeship in 1998, when he was elected without opposition to the state Second Circuit Court of Appeal. Dimos won the special election for judge that was held on March 27, 1999. He polled 5,430 votes (64 percent) to Republican Marshall Sanson's 3,081 votes (36 percent).
Dimos has, however, been criticized by attorneys who claim that he is too quick to prejudge a case and that he often coerces one side into settling by threatening that party with an even bigger judgment if they proceed to "put on" their case.
"The law is a fascinating profession. . . . You've got to enjoy it to be in it, and I enjoyed it," Dimos said. When he was asked what he would most miss about serving as a judge, Dimos told the Ouachita Citizen newspaper in West Monroe that he liked the interaction with attorneys and their clients, as well as the camaraderie with other judges. He also said that he enjoyed presiding over jury trials. Dimos said, however, that he "will not miss having to decide which parent gets custody of a child. I hate seeing those cases come to court, but sometimes it can't be avoided."
In 2003, Dimos underwent treatment for cancer of the throat, but he has been declared cancer-free. He said that his health played no role in his decision to retire. "I love people. I love to help them. I love to help them solve their problems. If you don't like doing that, you don't need to be in public service," he added. Dimos indicated that he may rejoin his former Monroe law firm—Brown, Erskine, and Burkett—on a reduced schedule.
Jeffrey L. "Jeff" Hawley, a Monroe investments broker and fellow Rotarian with Dimos, described the judge as "a really nice guy who has accomplished a lot, beginning with little, but great ethics and a work ethic. A classic American dream!" Dimos is also a formidable poker player.
Dimos left the bench on December 31, 2006. He was succeeded by Republican Scott Leehy. On March 11, 2017, Dimos was among five persons inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. He was cited for his role as House Speaker in the Roemer administration and later as a state district court judge.
- Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0-9700156-0-7, pp. 190-191
- Ron Gomez, pp. 179, 187
- Ron Gomez, p. 185
- Greg Hilburn (March 11, 2017). "La.'s political legends take their place in Hall of Fame". The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
- http://www.sos.louisiana.gov:8090/cgibin/?rqstyp=elcpr&rqsdta=03279937[permanent dead link]
- http://www.sos.louisiana.gov:8090/cgibin/?rqstyp=elcpr&rqsdta=10239937[permanent dead link]
- Anderson, Ed (30 May 1996). "Tulane scholarships survive". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans. p. A-2.
H. Lawrence Gibbs, Jr. (D)
| Louisiana State Representative for District 16 (Ouachita Parish)
Jimmy N. Dimos (D)
Kay Kellogg Katz (R)
| Speakers of the Louisiana House of Representatives Jimmy N. Dimos (D)
Robert W. "Bob" Kostelka (R)
| Fourth District Court Judge from Ouachita Parish
Jimmy N. Dimos