State senator files complaint against levee board case judge

A north Louisiana state senator has filed an ethics complaint with the Louisiana Supreme Court against 19th Judicial District Judge Janice Clark.

State Sen. Robert Adley’s conflict-of-interest complaint involves Clark presiding over a case involving a levee board lawsuit against oil and gas companies at the same time he said some lawyers in the case hosted a campaign fundraiser for Clark.

“The impropriety of this action is appalling and would be in violation of the Louisiana Ethics code for legislators. It clearly is an attempt to influence the outcome of the current case before Judge Clark’s court,” Adley wrote to Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson.

Adley, R-Benton, said Tuesday that he wants a judicial investigation.

He said it may be time to include judges in state campaign finance laws that prevent fundraising when key deliberations are going on similar to the ban on legislators fundraising during legislative sessions.

Clark is presiding over a case in which the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association claims that Attorney General Buddy Caldwell should not have authorized the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East to hire the outside attorneys who filed suit against 97 oil and gas companies.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of destroying wetlands and speeding coastal erosion. LOGA sued Caldwell last year, seeking to get the courts to reverse the authorization.

Adley is part of legislative efforts to derail the levee board’s lawsuit. He has filed legislation that would require the flood protection authority to win written permission of the governor and attorney general to hire special attorneys. Gov. Bobby Jindal is against the authority’s lawsuit.

Adley’s complaint involves a recent fundraiser for Clark hosted by 37 lawyers, among them Baton Rouge lawyer Wade Shows, who represented Caldwell in the case.

Clark presided over two days of hearings Feb. 24-25.

The fundraiser was held Feb. 27 at the LeBon Temps Bar & Grill in Baton Rouge.

The suggested contribution was $250 per person. The maximum contribution listed on the invitation was $2,500.

The case continues in Clark’s court Monday, March 10.

Shows said he was asked to be on the host committee for the event three or four months ago before the case was assigned to Clark by random allotment.

“I have given no money to Janice Clark’s campaign. I was merely a host,” Shows said. “I didn’t even go.

“The bigger question is why didn’t they just file it (the case) in Orleans Parish.”

Efforts to reach Clark or anyone at the Supreme Court for response were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Court offices were closed for Mardi Gras.

Adley said Tuesday that he hopes the court will take action against Clark.

Adley said the court lobbied to exempt themselves from ethics laws. If they choose not to police their own, he said he will file some legislation “to get at this issue of raising money while a judge is in trial. There has got to be something to deal with this issue.”