We’ve commented a few times about attorneys who run afoul of the disciplinary process. It is not as well known, but judges also have to consider their actions and the result of how they conduct their personal and professional lives.
Take, for example, a lawyer who ran 15 times for elective office and finally won an election as a family court judge. The newly elected judge brought a lot of baggage with her, but not the sort you pack your clothes in.
It turned out that the judge had quite a few pending disciplinary complaints against her as a lawyer that had not been resolved. You would think that someone constantly running for office would take care to not leave dozens of angry clients filing complaints -but that was not the case.
You would also think that a newly elected judge would take extra care to be squeaky clean in the way she conducted herself as a judge -but that was also not the case.
In deciding how to handle a case where there are fifteen pending complaints against the judge when she was a lawyer, as well as complaints against her once she became a judge, the Louisiana Supreme Court had to divide up all the complaints into categories: “Lawyer Charges” and “Judge Charges.” The Court first determined it had jurisdiction to consider the Lawyer Charges even though the action started because of complaints that were in the Judge Charges category. It must have been hard to sort out how to handle all the complaints. The long and short of most of the Lawyer Charges involved taking fees from clients but never doing anything. In a typical case, she took a retainer from a client to handle a criminal matter and then never even showed up in court for the client’s hearings.
The newly elected judge also had numerous complaints from all the various elections where she never made campaign finance disclosures as required by law. By the time she was elected, there were $48,300 in fines and she was being garnished. All of this, of course, is in addition to the Lawyer Charges and Judge Charges, but was also relevant to the Court’s determination as to fitness to serve as a judge.
The Lawyer Charges included a case where when she finally sent a partial refund because she never did any work for the client, the check bounced -twice. Other cases involved accepting retainers from clients after she was elected judge and knowing full well she would be on the bench and prohibited from representing clients.
On the Judge Charges, she apparently lost no time appointing a “career criminal” as her administrative assistant and various other family members and “incompetents” in her office which led to numerous problems. When the complaints came in that she was way behind in getting work done, she blamed her employees for all the delays. One particular “employee” -or not an employee, was a convicted felon who had free access to the Judge’s office and confidential records. He also facilitated the release of people in jail on traffic charges -many of whom were the Judge’s former clients.
The Supreme Court removed her from the bench based on the above and much, much more. They also recommended that the investigation continue as to whether she should be allowed to practice law.