It’s Good to be King

Full-time med mal defense attorney and part-time royalty, Marc Judice represents doctors with pride

Published in 2011 Louisiana Super Lawyers — January 2011

When the city of Lafayette named its 70th King Gabriel to preside over Mardi Gras, the identity of his majesty wasn’t much of a shock. Although the ballot had been cast secretly a year in advance and only the winner was informed of the result—to be kept hidden “on pain of death”—shrewd observers noticed that the king-to-be had been growing in his royal beard for months. 

“Otherwise they put one on you with glue,” says the usually clean-shaven medical malpractice attorney Marc W. Judice, the Lafayette native tapped to play the role. “You rip it off and a layer of skin comes with it. I did that once when I was a duke for another function and I decided no, I’d grow my own.”

You might say that Judice has been in line for Lafayette’s throne for a long time. The highly coveted honor of playing King Gabriel, a ceremonial role based on Gabriel Lajeunesse from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie,” is bestowed on a local citizen with a devotion to community and long-standing ties to Lafayette.

Judice certainly has those ties. When his mother’s family arrived in Louisiana from Acadia around 1765, his father’s family had already been there 30-odd years. Judice himself is one of eight children (and even more cousins) who grew up haunting the kitchen of the Judice Inn, a favorite local hamburger joint that his family opened in 1947. 

Judice Inn’s claim to fame is a traditionally petite and delicious hamburger slathered with a special sauce that hasn’t changed for generations—but it comes with chips, not french fries. And that’s just the way it is. “My high school friend [and now fellow lawyer] Ray Mouton was talking to my father once and was trying to explain how profitable it would be to have fries; how easy it would be to set up; how the customers want them. Ray said, ‘So what do you think, Mr. Judice?’ and my father said, ‘But Ray, Ray—what will they want next?’” Judice says with a laugh. “My father and his brother Al came back from the war and built that place. It put 13 kids through college and my youngest brother is still running it.”

Judice graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a degree in accounting, and in the next eight years turned around an M.B.A. from the University of Utah, a term in the Air Force during which he earned a Meritorious Service Medal and a Commendation Medal, and a law degree from the Louisiana State University Law Center. “My father and my uncle Al made sure that I did not fear work,” Judice says.

That work ethic inspired a profound respect for the medical profession, the bread and butter of his practice at Judice & Adley. “I just happened to get into medical malpractice defense [at the start of my career] and I loved it,” Judice says. “In spite of the trauma, the expense, the pain of a [potential] medical malpractice suit, these doctors continue to take care of high-risk patients, patients without funds. They’re very dedicated to their profession and very appreciative of the work I do.”

Judice believes that the decisions doctors make every day command respect. “I defended four physicians a few years back in a case where a 39-year-old female lost both of her hands and both of her feet because she came to the ER in septic shock,” he says. “She was developing cyanosis in her hands. When you’re in septic shock, your small blood vessels start shutting off, and as the disease progresses, you lose more and more circulation in your extremities. The four doctors—an internist, an anesthesiologist, a general surgeon and a nephrologist—were absolutely aware of what was going on, but the problem was deciding how to treat it. They needed to keep her blood pressure up. The internist said, ‘We gotta operate or she’s gonna die.’ The surgeon said, ‘If I operate, she’s gonna die!’ It was a very intense moment among the specialists as they weighed what to do.” They ultimately decided to operate, and the woman pulled through, “but the die was already cast for her hands and feet,” Judice says. The resulting amputations were the basis of her malpractice lawsuit.

“The physicians did the absolute correct thing,” Judice says. “I told the jurors that everyone had sympathy for this lady, but that’s not what the case was about. The case was about the reasonableness of the medicine practiced under the circumstances.

“We won, after a very hard-fought trial, 12–zip. I’ll always remember it because the jurors lined up to shake the hands of the doctors as they left the courthouse. It gives me a little chill to think about it.”

Judice’s career has been a parade of thrilling moments, but perhaps his favorite parade, and his favorite thrill, was the one he got as King Gabriel. “Riding on that big chair is the ride of rides,” Judice says. “It was an unbelievable honor to represent all of Acadiana. Very humbling.”

He still managed to do some good old-fashioned advertising while wearing the crown, but not for his law practice. The favors he bestowed on the parade route were strands of shiny red beads attached to a small, smooth resin medallion—in the shape of a hamburger: the symbol of the Judice Inn. 

Flip the medallion over, and on the back of the burger, in small, sly red print, it says, “Still No Fries.”

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