Saturday, November 21, 2020
The Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered the removal of a justice of the peace who was the subject of complaints after assuming office in 2018
In his sworn statement to the OSC, Respondent explained that he did not attend the justice of the peace training in 2018, after he assumed office, because he did not receive any information about it and did not know he needed to attend. Because of that, he stated he did not know “what to do or how to do it.” In addition to Ms. Zaunbrecher’s eviction matter, Respondent described a property dispute where he had been contacted by a man claiming that two other persons bought and sold property owned by him. Respondent explained that he tried to get the implicated parties “just to figure it out” and that he “didn’t know what to do, honestly.” When asked what happened in the case, he said “nothing.” Respondent also recalled meeting with Charles Armitage about a potential legal matter. Mr. Armitage told Respondent he had been trying to reach him, but Respondent recalled that Mr.Armitage only left him one voicemail.
Respondent explained he had difficulty finding time to communicate with the potential litigants because of his non-judicial work schedule. From the time he assumed office until approximately two months prior to his sworn statement, Respondent traveled for work as a welder, working 60 to 70 hours a week and traveling from one week to 50 days at a time. He acknowledged receipt of the OSC’s inquiry letters in the three underlying file numbers. He failed to respond, he explained, because he was away from home for work and was uncertain what to do.
The court rejected ignorance as an excuse
Respondent’s behavior was not simply negligent or the product of his inexperience. Instead, his failure to perform virtually any of his duties negatively impacted and harmed the litigants who tried to appear before him. Furthermore, his repeated promises to take action instead of simply admitting that he never intended to return the fee only add to the damage done to the victims.
By failing to refund the filing fee associated with the attempted eviction, Respondent appears to have, at the very least, misappropriated the fee. Because he did not appear before the Hearing Officer or the Commission, it is impossible to know whether the fee was converted for Respondent’s personal use.