Federal judge in BR refuses to recuse herself from criminal case

Photo provided by Matthew D. R. Lehner -- Baton Rouge attorney Rachelle 'Shelly' Deckert Dick arrives for her hearing Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. Show caption
Photo provided by Matthew D. R. Lehner -- Baton Rouge attorney Rachelle 'Shelly' Deckert Dick arrives for her hearing Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C.

Even though one of U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick’s law clerks is married to acting U.S. Attorney Walt Green, the judge on Friday refused to disqualify herself from hearing a criminal case being prosecuted by Green’s office.

Her ruling came about a week after David Courcelle, an attorney representing a Mandeville businessman in a fraud case, filed a motion requesting that Dick step down from presiding over the Raymond Christopher Reggie case because of a perceived conflict of interest stemming from Katherine Green’s position as a law clerk for the judge.

The judge, however, insisted in the ruling that ever since Katherine Green’s hire in May, the clerk has been barred from working on any cases in which the United States is a party. The judge also cited several appellate rulings involving clerks and possible impartiality that suggest judges should not disqualify themselves in such instances as long as the clerk in question is not involved in working such cases.

“The court finds that recusal in this case would be based on no more than ‘unsupported, irrational or highly tenuous speculation,’ ” Dick wrote in her ruling. “Accordingly, the motion is denied.”

It’s unclear whether Reggie’s attorneys will appeal the ruling.

Both Courcelle and Walt Green, acting U.S. attorney in Louisiana’s Middle District, declined comment, citing the pending litigation.

In the motion for recusal filed April 18, Reggie’s lawyers claimed Dick had “something to hide” by not disclosing the fact that Katherine Green worked as a clerk in her court. The motion also claimed Dick refused to recuse herself from the case in an off-the-record meeting during an April 14 hearing.

In Friday’s ruling, Dick denied those claims, calling them “blatant factual misrepresentations.”

“Any further misrepresentations by counsel for the defendant will be met with sanctions,” the judge warned.

Reggie, the businessman, is accused of stealing more than $1.1 million from Supreme Automotive Group, of Slidell, while acting as a media consultant for the group of car dealerships. Courcelle has argued in court that Supreme’s executives were aware of the payments made to Reggie.

Supreme’s members have dealerships in Gonzales, Plaquemine and other locations in southeast Louisiana.