Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

By
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

By
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

By
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

By
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

By
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

By
his matter came before the Supreme Court on the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana that respondent Judge Leo Boothe of the Seventh Judicial District Court, Parishes of Catahoula and Concordia, be removed from office and ordered to reimburse and pay the Commission for costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this case. The Commission determined that Judge Boothe violated Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 3A(1), 3A(6), and 3C of the Code of Judicial Conduct and engaged in willful conduct relating to his official duty and persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought his judicial office into disrepute, in violation of La. Const. art. V, sec. 25(C). After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court found that certain charges against Judge Boothe were proven by clear and convincing evidence; however, the Court rejected the recommendation that he be removed from office. The Court suspended the Judge from office for one year, without pay, and ordered him to reimburse and pay the Commission $11,731.79 in costs. View "In re: Judge Leo Boothe, Seventh Judicial District court Catahoula & Concordia Parishes" on Justia Law

By
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on a binding arbitration clause in an attorney-client retainer agreement and whether that clause was enforceable where the client filed suit for legal malpractice. This case presented two important countervailing public policies: Louisiana and federal law explicitly favor the enforcement of arbitration clauses in written contracts; by the same token, Louisiana law also imposes a fiduciary duty "of the highest order" requiring attorneys to act with "the utmost fidelity and forthrightness" in their dealings with clients, and any contractual clause which may limit the client's rights against the attorney is subject to close scrutiny. After its careful study, the Supreme Court held there is no per se rule against arbitration clauses in attorney-client retainer agreements, provided the clause is fair and reasonable to the client. However, the attorneys' fiduciary obligation to the client encompasses ethical duties of loyalty and candor, which in turn require attorneys to fully disclose the scope and the terms of the arbitration clause. An attorney must clearly explain the precise types of disputes the arbitration clause is meant to cover and must set forth, in plain language, those legal rights the parties will give up by agreeing to arbitration. In this case, the Defendants did not make the necessary disclosures, thus, the arbitration clause was unenforceable. Accordingly, the judgment of the lower courts was affirmed. View "Hodges v. Reasonover" on Justia Law

By
This case came before the Supreme Court on recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, which recommended Justice of the Peace Herbert Williams (Parish of Plaquemines) be publicly censured and ordered to reimburse costs incurred in the Commission's investigation and prosecution of this case for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. In his capacity as an ex officio notary public, JP Williams notarized a document "purporting to transfer" ownership of a parcel of land to his son and daughter-in-law. The donation was not recorded right away. Upon discovering the "purported donation" in 2009, the purported Donor filed a complaint in Louisiana federal district court to clear title to the property at issue. In light of an article that appeared in the local newspaper concerning the complaint, the Commission opened an investigation, and alleged JP Williams engaged in judicial misconduct by notarizing the donation of land to his relatives, which was beyond his limited ex officio notarial powers, and without witnessing the Donor's signature. After a thorough review of the facts and law in this matter, the Supreme Court agreed with the Commission's disciplinary recommendation. View "In re JP Williams, Jr." on Justia Law

By
This case came before the Supreme Court on recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, which recommended District Judge Robert Burgess (of the 42nd Judicial District, Parish of DeSoto) be publicly censured for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The disciplinary proceedings arose from a divorce proceeding between Tad Russell VanZile and Judge Burgess' niece, Jenifer Colvin VanZile. The Judge intervened in his niece's divorce and restraining order proceedings by phoning other judges as to the status and disposition of his niece's case. The Supreme Court adopted the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission and publicly censured Judge Burgess, and ordered him to pay costs. View "In re Burgess" on Justia Law

By
In 2006, Plaintiff Laurie Jenkins entered into a contract with Chet Medlock for the sale, transfer and delivery of a metal building. The purchase price was to be paid in three equal installments. After the building was completed, issues arose regarding the quality of work. Plaintiff contacted Defendant Larry Starns who wrote a letter to Medlock on her behalf, pointing out several complaints Plaintiff had with the building. Medlock sued Plaintiff for breach of contract; she was personally served. Defendant was in contact with Medlock's attorney, and believed there was an informal agreement for an extension of time to file responsive pleadings. When no answer was filed, Medlock obtained a default judgment against Plaintiff. Plaintiff notified Defendant of the judgment, to which he filed a petition to annul the judgment. Medlock responded arguing insufficiency of service and improper venue. Neither Plaintiff nor Defendant made an appearance at court. The trial court subsequently dismissed Plaintiff's suit. Ultimately the court issued a judgment of garnishment against Plaintiff's bank account. Plaintiff filed suit against her attorney alleging legal malpractice, which she lost. Upon review of the record, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court and court of appeal erred in applying the "continuous representation rule" to suspend the commencement of the one-year peremptive period in La. R.S. 9:5605 until Defendant's efforts to remedy his negligence had concluded. The court of appeal's judgment was reversed. View "Jenkins v. Starns" on Justia Law