I write in defense of two long-serving 19th Judicial District Court judges who have come under fire recently in the pages of The Advocate.
A state legislator known primarily for looking out for oil and gas and other big corporate interests has attacked Judge Janice Clark for hearing cases where one or more of the lawyers involved have contributed to her campaign.
This legislator knows fully well that all district and appellate judges in Louisiana, including our Supreme Court justices, are elected, and that all of them receive campaign funding from members of the legal and business communities (as do legislators) who care about the quality of our judiciary.
There are many rules in place governing campaign contributions to judicial candidates. There is no requirement that a judge recuse herself just because a lawyer involved in the case is one of hundreds or thousands of campaign supporters.
Such a requirement would be unworkable and is unnecessary. There is no evidence any sitting judge has “thrown” a case because one of the lawyers involved has supported her.
There is certainly no evidence Judge Clark has ever done so. There’s much more evidence that this legislator, and others like him, have spent their time advancing the interests of their own big corporate donors instead of their rank-and-file constituents.
This legislator’s singling out of Judge Clark has much more to do with his own narrow agenda than with Judge Clark, who is liked and respected in the Baton Rouge legal community.
Then we have the attacks on Judge Kay Bates for taking a personal interest in the welfare of her son, who is in jail awaiting trial on criminal charges. Obviously, Judge Bates cannot and has not tried to be a judge in her son’s case, but what’s wrong in her continuing to be a loving and caring mother who does what she can for her son? What else would you have her do — disown him?
Judge Bates has every right to talk with her son, advise her son and even use her contacts to ensure her son is treated humanely in jail, which — guess what? — doesn’t happen by itself.
Anyone familiar with the conditions of our jails — and who knows when that could be you or your loved one? — knows they are places of horror and danger, where the convenience of the authorities and sometimes the profit of investors trump the basic health and safety needs of the inmates. If a parent can do something to help her child caught in these conditions, why shouldn’t she?