Note: Judgepedia will be read-only from 9pm CST on February 25-March 2 while Judgepedia is merged into Ballotpedia.
Starting on March 2, all Judgepedia content will be contained on For status updates, visit

Donald Walter

From Judgepedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Donald Walter
Placeholder image.png
Do you have a photo that could go here? Submit it for this profile by emailing us!
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #6
Station:   Shreveport, LA
Appointed by:   Ronald Reagan
Active:   07/11/1985 - 11/29/2001
Senior:   11/30/2001 - Present
Preceded by:   98 Stat. 333
Succeeded by:   Maurice Hicks
Personal History
Born:   1936
Hometown:   Jennings, LA
Undergraduate:   Louisiana State U., B.A., 1961
Law School:   Louisiana State U. Law, J.D., 1964
Military service:   U.S. Army 1957 - 1958

Donald Ellsworth Walter is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. He joined the court in 1985 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Walter is a judge serving on senior status.

Early life and education

A native of Louisiana, Walter graduated from Louisiana State University with his bachelor's degree in 1961 and later graduated from the Louisiana State University Law School with his Juris Doctor degree in 1964. Walter Served in the US Army from 1957 to 1958 on active duty.[1]

Professional career

Walter served as a private practice attorney licensed in the State of Louisiana from 1964 to 1969 and from 1978 to 1985. In 1969, Walter was nominated by President Richard Nixon as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana and served in the role until 1977.[1]

Judicial career

Western District of Louisiana

Walter was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on May 15, 1985 to a new seat created by 98 Stat. 333. Walter was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 10, 1985 and received commission on July 11, 1985. Walter later assumed senior status on November 30, 2001.[1] Walter was succeeded in this position by Maurice Hicks.

Notable cases

Inmate convicted in murder-for-hire plot against Article III judge (2013)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas (U.S. v. Ballard, 4:12-mj-00414-BJ)

On December 11, 2013, a jury convicted Phillip M. Ballard, a member of the sovereign citizen movement, of one charge of solicitation to commit murder in the attempted murder-for-hire of Judge John McBryde of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Judge Walter, sitting by designation, presided over the trial. In the underlying case, Ballard, after standing trial for federal tax fraud, and already in federal custody on unrelated charges, feared that McBryde would sentence him to more than 20 years in prison. From September 9, 2012 through September 27, 2012, Ballard plotted McBryde's demise, and eventually offered an inmate $100,000 to kill him. At trial, Ballard claimed that he never had any actual intent to kill the judge, but a jury convicted him of the offense nonetheless. Ballard now faces up to 20 years in prison, and sentencing was scheduled for March 2014.[2][3][4]

Hal Turner threat case (2009-2010)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. HAROLD TURNER, No. 11-196-cr)

Judge Walter was the presiding judge in the trial of political commentator Hal Turner. Turner was charged for making threats against Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook along with fellow judges William Bauer and Richard Posner after upholding the Chicago handgun ban in the McDonald v. Chicago case. The trial was heard at the Eastern District of New York, as the judge granted a venue change.[5] On December 8, 2009, Judge Walter declared a mistrial in the first trial after the jury was deadlocked on reaching a verdict. The New York Law Journal reported that the jury did not reach a unanimous vote in order to acquit Turner. One of the jurors who spoke about the case to the media after the jury was dismissed said that federal prosecutors did not have a strong case saying that only six witnesses were called.[6] A new trial began on March 1, 2010, with some changes in the trial's procedure.[7] For the second trial, Judge Walter would not allow Turner's attorneys to make opening statements to the jury until prosecutors rested their case and also banned both sides from revealing evidence that Turner was a FBI informant.[7] On March 2, 2010, Seventh Circuit judges Richard Posner, William Bauer, and Frank Easterbrook testified for the prosecution. All three judges during their testimony considered the statements made by Turner as threats. Chief Judge Easterbrook mentioned the murder of the husband and mother of fellow Illinois federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow by a disgruntled litigant as a reason why they took Turner's alleged threats seriously.[8]

When Turner testified on March 4, 2010, he said that what was spoken on his radio podcasts and written on his blogs was legal speech and made no threat to harm anyone. This came after an aggressive cross-examination by prosecuting attorneys in which they presented evidence that Turner would take credit for the death of a federal judge. When defense attorneys questioned Turner on March 3, 2010, he cited that his questionable rhetoric was necessary to help the FBI move on domestic terrorism issues.[9] The jury in the second trial began deliberations on March 9, 2010. After two days of deliberations, a mistrial was declared on March 11, 2010. This came after the jury told the judge that they could not agree to a unanimous verdict which was required to convict Turner. One juror told the media after the trial that the prosecution was "weak" during the case.[10] In December 2010, after a third trial, Turner was sentenced to 33 months in prison for threatening judges.[11] The case was appeals and upheld by the Second Circuit court.

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
NA-New Seat
Western District of Louisiana
Seat #6
Succeeded by:
Maurice Hicks