Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (“Commission”) brought a formal charge against Judge J. Robin Free of the 18th Judicial District Court for the Parishes of Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge. The charge alleged Judge Free violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Louisiana Constitution, Article V, sec. 25(C), in that he interrupted a private meeting between the family members of the victims and members of the District Attorney’s Office, following a hearing in a criminal case before him, and made an inappropriate comment; abused his contempt authority and failed to follow the proper procedures for the punishment of contempt in two cases; and made inappropriate comments in seven criminal cases and exhibited a lack of proper decorum, demeanor, and temperament. After reviewing the recommendation of the Commission and the record, the Louisiana Supreme Court accepted the recommendation of the Commission that Judge Free be suspended without pay for one year and ordered to reimburse the Commission for the costs associated with these proceedings. View "In re Judge J. Robin Free, Eighteenth Judicial Dist. Ct., Parishes of West Baton Rouge, Iberville & Pointe Coupee" on Justia Law

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The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana recommended that James J. Best, a judge for the Eighteenth Judicial District, Parishes of Iberville, Pointe Coupee, and West Baton Rouge, be disciplined. The Commission alleged Judge Best committed misconduct and should be suspended for thirty days and ordered to reimburse the costs incurred in the Commission’s investigation and prosecution of this case. Judge Best did not contest the recommendation and, along with the Commission, filed a joint motion urging the Supreme Court to accept and implement the recommendation as a consent discipline. The Supreme Court rejected the joint motion and docketed the case for a full evaluation of the record. After a thorough review of the facts and law in this matter, the Supreme Court found that a fifteen-day suspension, without pay, and reimbursement of costs to be an appropriate sanction. View "In re: Judge James Best, Eighteenth Jud. Dist. Court of Iberville, Pointe Coupee & West Baton Rouge Parishes" on Justia Law

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The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana recommended that respondent, Justice of the Peace J. Roosevelt Gremillion, District Seven, Parish of Pointe Coupee, be removed from office and ordered to reimburse to the Judiciary Commission and the Office of Special Counsel the costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this case. After conducting an investigation, the Commission filed a formal charge against Justice of the Peace Gremillion alleging that he violated Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 3A(1), 3A(4), and 3A(7) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and engaged in willful misconduct relating to his official duty and persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute. Specifically, the charge alleged that Justice of the Peace Gremillion rendered a judgment without giving the defendants a meaningful opportunity to be heard, without requiring the plaintiff to present any evidence or sworn testimony, and without giving the defendants written notice of the judgment against them; displayed bias or prejudice throughout the proceedings in favor of the creditor and/or against the defendants’ efforts to defend the claim against them; notarized power of attorney forms when the purported affiants did not appear before him, swear out an oath, or sign the forms in his presence; and used a notary stamp that gave the incorrect impression he was an attorney. After a thorough review of the facts and law in this matter, including the stipulations of material facts and conclusions of law entered into by the respondent and the Office of Special Counsel, the Louisiana Supreme Court found clear and convincing evidence sufficient to support the charge. The Court agreed with the Judiciary Commission's recommendation of discipline that Justice of the Peace Gremillion be removed from office and ordered to reimburse and pay to the Commission the amount of $1,547.43. View "In re: Justice of the Peace J. Roosevelt Gremillion, Dist. Seven, Parish of Pointe Coupee" on Justia Law

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The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana recommended that Justice of the Peace Stacie Myers, Pointe Coupee Parish District 4 be removed from office. This recommendation stemmed from the justice of the peace failing to comply with a Supreme Court order to pay a civil penalty for violation of the financial reporting requirements imposed by law, and totally disregarding the actions and legal proceedings connected therewith. The Supreme Court found the record established by clear and convincing evidence that the conduct of the justice of the peace, which was willful and deliberate, violated Canons 1 and 2(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as the constitutional standard in La. Const. art. V, sec. 25(C). The Court ordered that she be removed from office, her office be declared vacant, and she be ordered to reimburse and pay the Commission $288 in costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this case in addition to any costs and penalties previously imposed. View "In re: Justice of the Peace Stacie P. Myers, Pointe Coupee Paris, District 4" on Justia Law

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This matter comes before the Louisiana Supreme Court on the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission that respondent, Justice of the Peace Leroy J. Laiche, Jr., Second Justice of the Peace Court, Parish of Ascension, State of Louisiana, be removed from office and be ordered to reimburse the Commission the costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this matter. The Court agreed with the Commission's findings that respondent failed to timely refund bond money and inadvertently held bond money in excess of that permitted by law. Furthermore, the Court found the record demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that respondent issued peace bond judgments without a hearing or giving the defendants a meaningful opportunity to be heard on five occasions. The Commission determined that respondent violated Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 3A(1), 3A(3), 3A(4), 3A(7), 3B(1) and 3B(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and concluded that Justice of the Peace Laiche’s misconduct constituted egregious legal errors sufficient to rise to the level of judicial misconduct for which a judge should be removed from office under Article V, Section 25(C) of the Louisiana Constitution. After thoroughly reviewing the record, The Supreme Court adopted its recommendation of discipline. View "In re: Justice of the Peace Leroy J. Laiche, Jr." on Justia Law

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This was a legal malpractice case. Defendant Michelle Myer-Bennett filed a peremptory exception of peremption asserting plaintiff Tracy Lomont filed her malpractice claim beyond the three-year peremptive period set forth in La. R.S. 9:5605. Lomont opposed the exception, arguing the peremptive period should not have applied because Myer-Bennett engaged in fraudulent behavior which prevented application of the peremptive period. Lomont hired Myer-Bennett to represent her in a divorce and related domestic matters, which included partitioning the community property. Citibank obtained a default judgment against John Lomont (the ex-husband) on a delinquent account. Citibank recorded the judgment in the mortgage records in Jefferson Parish as a lien against the home. Lomont attempted to refinance the mortgage on the home and learned from the bank that the settlement agreement, giving her full ownership of the home, was never recorded in the mortgage and conveyance records. Lomont contacted Myer-Bennett to advise her of the problem. According to Myer-Bennett, because it was her standard practice to record such documents, she initially believed Lomont was given inaccurate information by the bank. Upon investigation, Myer-Bennett discovered that she had not recorded the agreement. Myer-Bennett recorded the agreement the next day, September 30, 2010. In December 2010, Lomont was notified that her application to refinance the loan was denied because of Citibank’s lien on the property. According to Myer-Bennett, once she became aware of the Citibank lien she discussed with Lomont the fact she committed malpractice and gave Lomont several options to proceed, including hiring another lawyer to sue her, or allowing Myer-Bennett to file suit against John Lomont and/or Citibank to have the lien removed. Myer-Bennett stated. Lomont chose not to pursue a malpractice action, but wanted defendant to fix the problem. Lomont denied Myer-Bennett ever notified her she had committed malpractice. Lomont contended Myer-Bennett never mentioned malpractice in December 2010, but simply advised she would have the Citibank lien removed from the property by filing lawsuits against John Lomont and Citibank. The district court sustained the exception of peremption and the court of appeal affirmed. Based on the facts of this case, the Supreme Court found defendant committed fraud within the meaning of La. R.S. 9:5605(E). Thus, the peremptive periods contained in La. R.S. 9:5605 were not applicable and plaintiff’s legal malpractice claim was governed by the one-year prescriptive period in La. C.C. art. 3492. Further, the facts of this case supported an application of the doctrine of contra non valentem. Because the Court found plaintiff filed suit within one year of discovering defendant’s malpractice, the Court held the lower courts erred in sustaining defendant’s exception of peremption. View "Lomont v. Myer-Bennett" on Justia Law

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This matter stemmed from a recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana regarding the failure of respondent Justice of the Peace Lorne L. Landry to comply with the financial reporting requirements of Supreme Court Rule XXXIX. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the record established by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent willfully and knowingly failed to comply with the filing requirement of Rule XXXIX, thereby subjecting him to discipline. Respondent was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $500, plus costs. Respondent was further ordered to file his 2011 financial disclosure statement. View "In re: Justice of the Peace Lorne L. Landry, Plaquemines Parish, Ward 8" on Justia Law

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This matter comes before the court on the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana that Judge Sheva M. Sims of the Shreveport City Court, Caddo Parish, be suspended without pay for 90 days and ordered to reimburse the Commission's costs. The charge arose from an incident that occurred between Judge Sims and an assistant city prosecutor, Katherine Gilmer, on April 24, 2012, wherein Judge Sims stated that Ms. Gilmer was “held in contempt” of court and then ordered the dismissal of fifteen criminal cases on the docket that day. After reviewing the record and applicable law, the Supreme Court found that the charge against Judge Sims was supported by clear and convincing evidence. However, the Court rejected the recommended discipline and instead ordered Judge Sims be suspended without pay for a period of 30 days. Furthermore, the Court ordered Judge Sims to reimburse the Commission’s costs incurred relative to its investigation and prosecution of this case. View "In re: Judge Sheva M. Sims, Shreveport City Court, Caddo Parish" on Justia Law

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In lieu of undergoing a formal audit, Louisiana law requires justices of the peace to file a sworn annual financial statement with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. Officials who fail to file timely financial statements are notified that their names have been placed on a noncompliance list. According to a database maintained by the Legislative Auditor, respondent failed to file her annual financial statement for 2007, 2008, 2009. As of May 2013, when the hearing was held in this matter, respondent was still out of compliance for those years. In December 2010, the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission authorized the Office of Special Counsel to open a file regarding respondent based on the news report from a New Orleans television station that respondent's name had been placed on the Auditor's list. The Supreme Court found that the record established by clear and convincing evidence that respondent failed to comply with the filing requirement of La. Rev. Stat. 24:514, thereby subjecting her to discipline. Respondent was ordered suspended without pay for twelve months, with six months deferred conditioned on her filing the requisite sworn annual financial statements for years 2007, 2008, and 2009 within three months of the date of this judgment. Respondent was further ordered to reimburse and pay to the Commission $246.70 in costs. View "In re Justice of the Peace Meyers" on Justia Law

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The Formal Charge against respondent Justice of the Peace Mary Foret arose from a small claims case in her court brought by Norris and Gloria Comeaux against Charles and Carol LeBlanc. Both prior to and after the filing of the lawsuit, respondent engaged in numerous ex parte communications with the parties concerning the substantive issues in the case. Respondent also engaged in improper independent investigation into the background of the case by having her constable obtain the police report of an altercation between Comeaux and LeBlanc. Despite these ex parte communications and independent fact-finding about the case, respondent did not recuse herself. When the Comeaux case was set for hearing, respondent knowingly allowed the constable to participate in the hearing to a significant extent. Respondent also allowed the Constable to participate in her decision-making process by asking him at the conclusion of the hearing what he thought of the case. The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana recommended, and the Supreme Court adopted, that respondent be suspended with pay for sixty days and ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution of these proceedings. View "IIn re: Justice of the Peace Mary Foret" on Justia Law