Monday, January 11, 2010
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.