February 16, 2008
A Judge of the Shreveport City Court was ordered removed from office and prohibited from seeking judicial office for five years by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The proceedings against the judge were initiated by an anonymous complaint. The judge suffered from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain and fatigue disorder. She had used prescription medication for the condition for an extended period of time that caused her to be inattentive and confused while on the bench. Allegations of excessive absenteeism, using court personnel for personal matters and improper ex parte communications also were sustained. The judge had testified that she was now engaged in alternative therapies for her pain, including acupuncture, massage therapy and yoga. The court found compelling evidence that the judge was "impaired while performing judicial duties" and had demonstrated an "inability to handle her docket properly."
There is a concurring opinion that would not find clear and convincing evidence of drug dependency. The concurrence notes that there were several evaluations of the judge that did not find such an addiction, including an evaluation from an "addictionologist." The evidence below did not include the testimony of a physician. Rather, the evidence established that the judge was in a "highly stressful job situation, and that she did not appear to be taking very good care of her overall wellness." Nonetheless, the concurrence found sufficient evidence of impaired performance of judicial duties to support the result.
There also appears to have been some personal antagonism between the judge and court personnel, including a deputy marshal (see footnote 11 for a description of the deputy being photographed by cell phone gesturing at a portrait of the judge with his middle finger raised). (Mike Frisch)
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