Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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This matter arose from a recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (Commission) regarding Justice of the Peace Tina Revette LaGrange's failure to comply with the financial disclosure requirements of Louisiana Supreme Court Rule XXXIX. The Commission found that Justice of the Peace LaGrange failed to file her 2009 personal financial disclosure statement timely, thereby subjecting her to a monetary penalty. The Commission determined Justice of the Peace LaGrange acted willfully and knowingly in failing to comply with the financial disclosure rule and recommended that she be ordered to pay a penalty and reimburse the Commission for costs. Following the Supreme Court's precedent, the Commission filed an amended recommendation, recommending penalties be limited to $200.00, with no request for reimbursement of costs. After review, the Supreme Court found that the record supported the Commission’s finding that Justice of the Peace LaGrange acted willfully and knowingly in failing to file the financial disclosure statement. Justice of the Peace LaGrange was thereafter ordered to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $500.00. View "In re: Justice of the Peace Tina LaGrange" on Justia Law

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This matter arose from a recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (Commission) regarding Justice of the Peace Thomas Threet’s failure to comply with the financial disclosure requirements of Louisiana Supreme Court Rule XXXIX. The Commission found that Justice of the Peace Threet failed to file his 2009 personal financial disclosure statement timely, thereby subjecting him to a monetary penalty. The Commission determined Justice of the Peace Threet acted willfully and knowingly in failing to comply with the financial disclosure rule and recommended that he be ordered to pay a penalty and to reimburse the Commission for costs. Following the Supreme Court's precedent, the Commission filed an amended recommendation, recommending penalties be limited to $200.00, with no request for reimbursement of costs. After review, the Supreme Court found that the record supported the Commission’s finding that Justice of the Peace Threet acted willfully and knowingly in failing to file the financial disclosure statement. Justice of the Peace Threet was thereafter ordered to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $300.00. View "In re: Justice of the Peace Thomas Threet" on Justia Law

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This matter arose from a recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (Commission) regarding Justice of the Peace Stacie P. Myers’ failure to comply with the financial disclosure requirements of Louisiana Supreme Court Rule XXXIX. The Commission found that Justice of the Peace Myers failed to file her 2009 personal financial disclosure statement timely, thereby subjecting her to a monetary penalty. The Commission determined Justice of the Peace Myers acted willfully and knowingly in failing to comply with the financial disclosure rule and recommended that she be ordered to pay the penalty and reimburse the Commission for costs. Following the Supreme Court's precedent, the Commission filed an amended recommendation, recommending penalties be limited to $200.00, with no request for reimbursement of costs. After review, the Supreme Court found that the record supported the Commission’s finding that Justice of the Peace Myers acted willfully and knowingly in failing to file the financial disclosure statement. Justice of the Peace Myers was thereafter ordered to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $500.00. View "In re: Justice of the Peace Stacie Myers " on Justia Law