The state House of Representatives killed legislation Tuesday that would have shed some sunlight on ethically challenged judges.
But 50 politicians in the state House of Representatives, including Reps. Katrina Jackson of Monroe and Frank Hoffmann of West Monroe, obviously felt a good dose of disinfectant is not needed in the dark halls of the state courts of Louisiana.
House Bill 75 by Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, would have required the state Judiciary Commission to publicly disclose its records related to the commission tagging an ethically challenged, or incompetent, judge whose actions or behavior ran afoul of the Code of Judicial Conduct — the ethics code for judges.
Zeringue’s bill also would have required the Judiciary Commission to publicly disclose “any reminder” or “caution” meted out to a judge whose questionable behavior led to a complaint being filed with the Judiciary Commission.
Existing state law excludes the Judiciary Commission, as well as all of its dealings, from the public record. Simply stated, the general public, including the media, cannot access the Judiciary Commission’s records including any records of the commission determining a judge had violated the ethics code for judges.
Zeringue’s legislation sought to make public just a slither of the Judiciary Commission’s business, but that was too much information for the politicians and the judges to stomach.
The Judiciary Commission is charged with entertaining complaints filed by private citizens or attorneys against judges who are believed to have violated the ethics code for judges. The commission does not have the authority to punish judges for bad behavior. That responsibility belongs to the seven politicians on the state Supreme Court, who rely on recommendations from the Judiciary Commission.
As you might expect, the mighty seven on the Supreme Court are not bound to heed the advice, or recommendation, of the Judiciary Commission. Instead, the mighty seven can make up their own rules as they go along. And the general public never knows about it unless the mighty seven yanks a judge back in line for offending someone somewhere over some issue that may or may not involve a campaign contribution made to one of the mighty seven at some point in their illustrious legal careers.
On this, you be the judge.