Law Talk: Judson, Fontenot answer legal questions on online talk show

Published 4:11 pm Sunday, May 15, 2022

Between Mark Judson and Jonathan Fontenot, they make one heck of a lawyer.

“We have polar opposite personalities,” Fontenot said with a laugh. “If you have a flat tire and you call me to tell me where you are, I’ll come get you and fix the flat. If you call Mark, he’s going to ask you, ‘How did you feel when you got your flat? What do we need to do to make you feel better? He’s a good counselor because he listens. I’m more practical.”

“We decided to take the combination of us and tackle the mountain together,” Judson added. “Between the two of us, we’re one good lawyer.”

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The two banter and answer legal questions together weekly on “Law Talk,” a public service segment created by the SWLA Law Center and CBS Lake Charles.

On the show, Fontenot takes on the “Law Dawg” persona while Judson is “The Director.”

“He’s the ‘Law Dawg’ because he is an aggressive litigator and he bites into a case like a dog that won’t let go,” Judson said. “He also raises these adorable Labs.”

Judson, whose background is in real estate law, is the executive director of the SWLA Law Center and Fontenot, a Cameron-based criminal attorney, keeps an office at the center in exchange for consulting on some cases for their modest-means clients.

While attorneys at the Law Center receive several hundred questions a week on general law inquiries, Fontenot said they started receiving thousands a day about contractor fraud after Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

“Every home from Bell City to Westlake was damaged,” Fontenot said. “That’s 75,000 houses with 75,000 people that need work done. How many are legit contractors and how many just follow disasters around with their cars? People were giving their entire insurance checks to these people who would do a little bit of work and leave or some shoddy work and leave and then the homeowners would come to us for help.”

That overwhelming need for advice turned into “Law Talk,” which originally encompassed an hour-long talk radio show Saturday afternoons on 104.1-FM. When the radio station switched to a primarily sports-related format, CBS Lake Charles offered the attorneys a spot — both on their station’s social media pages and YouTube channel.

“This is a great way to get the word out because there’s still people who are just now — almost two years in — getting their insurance checks and are looking for contractors,” Fontenot said. “If they don’t have a contractor, then they’re getting estimates, but that only shows what you’re going to pay. It doesn’t show what they’re going to do, when they’re going to do it, attorney fees, where do you litigate.”

His best advice? Don’t pay upfront.

“If you pay upfront, you’ve played all your cards,” he said. “Would you go to a restaurant and pay $500 and hope they feed you?”

Judson said “Law Talk” airs as weekly 2-minute question-and-answer segments. Since airing in February, the pair now have 20 segments under their belts.

“With each take, we’re getting better and better,” Judson said with a laugh. “Johnathan always says we have faces for radio but Ross Conner and his team can work magic and make us look good.”

Conner, the show’s producer, said hurricane-related questions are time-sensitive topics but questions such as homestead exemption are always needed — at some point.

“Now that information is available for whoever is Googling ‘Calcasieu homestead exemption’ because it’s on YouTube forever,” Conner said. “It’s viable and it’ll always be there. If you don’t need to know about it this week, two years from now you might and that information will still be there for the community. It’s on demand, whenever they want.”

Judson and Fontenot volunteer their time for “Law Talk” and the station uses three interns — Conner Harper of Vinton High School and Gavin Dugas and Millie Dillman, both of Sulphur High — all graduating seniors from the Calcasieu Parish School Board’s television program, to film their episodes.

Judson said a lot of the questions they answer encompass “living and dying.”

“People live and they need to live in a house and they have to have a job, have an automobile, you have to enter into debt, have a car loan, have a mortgage or pay rent and they’re legal issues that come up with those things,” he said. “Then everybody has to die and we all will need wills, we all need to go through successions, we all have to plan for death, we all need powers of attorneys. These are common every day needs. The show’s concept is that we address every person’s legal needs. We can provide the general guidance and general answers so that people can get a general view of what they need to do.”

Judson said legal problems bring anxiety because it’s a disruption to one’s life.

“Like any problem, once you understand the pathway to solving the problem, you feel better,” he said. “I’m more into bringing peace of mind and he’s more into solving the problem.”