January 11, 2010
Removed Judge May Be Disciplined
A judge of the civil district court for Orleans Parish who had solicited campaign contributions and required his court staff to assist his campaign on threat of job loss was disbarred retroactive to his interim suspension by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The judge had falsely denied the allegations, including in oath-sworn testimony. The Supreme Court removed him from office him in 2003 but "did not reserve to the ODC the right to institute lawyer disciplinary proceedings against [him] in accordance with Supreme Court Rule XIX, section 6(B)."
The judge was charged with perjury and public salary extortion and pled guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to commit public payroll fraud. He was then suspended for the conviction, which was late expunged. The Supreme Court denied his petition for reinstatement after the conviction was set aside.
The court majority rejected the suggestion that it lacked jurisdiction, as the proceeding was "based upon the criminal conviction and not upon judicial misconduct." The majority found disbarment appropriate for the knowing and intentional misuse of the judicial office for personal benefit.
There is a concurring opinion and several dissents. Justice Johnson would lift the interim suspension and impose no further discipline: "This Court has handed down an excessively harsh discipline to a former member of the judiciary, who has not been the subject of previous disciplinary charges, and who, at the time of the misconduct, was a relatively inexperienced judge." Justice Victory opines as the author of the removal order that did not reserve bar proceedings and agrees with Justice Johnson as to sanction.
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This is a harsh result - especially as it is administered by Justices - many (all?) of whom receive money from litigators in the courts they supervise. For their own election campaigns, the Louisiana Justices get their well-connected pals in the bar association to raise money for them; they do not have to rely on court personnel (one supposes) to do this chore. Does this distinction warrant disbarment on one hand and electoral victories-plus-pensions on the other?
As for lying under oath. Of course this is serious and warrants a serious sanction. But Louisiana Supreme Court Justices are seldom if ever placed under oath to explain their money-raising shenanigans. If they were, you'd get a lot of memory lapses from people who otherwise bask in public acclaim for their astute minds. Yeah. Right.
Posted by: Richard Baldwin Cook | Jan 12, 2010 2:49:03 PM