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In re Landry

Supreme Court of Louisiana

March 17, 2015

IN RE: JUSTICE OF THE PEACE LORNE L. LANDRY PLAQUEMINES PARISH, WARD 8 STATE OF LOUISIANA

For Applicant: Michael Bewers, Lantz Savage, Mary Frances Whitney, OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL.

For Respondent: Justice of the Peace Lorne L. Landry; Clare Dolores Fiasconaro, Commission Counsel.

OPINION

Page 879

[2014-2335 La. 1] JUDICIARY COMMISSION OF LOUISIANA

CRICHTON, J.

This matter arises from a recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (" Commission" ) regarding the failure of Justice of the Peace Lorne L. Landry (" Respondent" ) to comply with the financial reporting requirements of Supreme Court Rule XXXIX (" Rule XXXIX" ). We find the record establishes by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent willfully and knowingly failed to comply with the filing requirement of Rule XXXIX, thereby subjecting him to discipline. After considering the facts, circumstances, and applicable law, Respondent is ordered to pay a civil penalty to the State of Louisiana, Judicial Branch, in the amount of $500, plus costs in the amount of $301.50, no later than thirty days from the finality of this decision; Respondent is further ordered to file his 2011 financial disclosure statement no later than fifteen days from the finality of this decision. Failure to comply with the orders of this court may result in a finding of contempt.[1]

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Rule XXXIX requires the filing of annual financial disclosure statements by judges and justices of the peace.[2][3] Pursuant to § 2 of this rule, all elected justices [2014-2335 La. 2] of the peace must file their financial statement by May 15th of each year, using a form prescribed by the Office of the Judicial Administrator, Supreme Court of Louisiana (" JAO" ) for that purpose.[4] In the instant case, Respondent has been

Page 880

charged with failing to file timely his personal financial disclosure statement for the calendar year 2011 as required by Rule XXXIX.

Respondent was an elected justice of the peace for Plaquemines Parish, Ward 8 during the 2011 calendar year. Respondent's 2011 financial statement was due on May 15, 2012; it is undisputed that the financial statement was not received by that date. Accordingly, on June 11, 2012, the JAO sent Respondent a notice of delinquency by certified mail advising him that the 2011 Statement " must be filed no later than fourteen (14) business days after receipt of this notice of delinquency, or by July 3, 2012." The notice of delinquency also stated that failure to file the 2011 Statement by the deadline " shall result in referral to the Judiciary Commission and the imposition of penalties as provided in Section 4 of Rule XXXIX."

Because the delinquency notice went unclaimed at the Port Sulphur Post Office, the JAO sent another letter to Respondent's physical address dated July 6, 2012, extending the filing deadline to July 30, 2012. Respondent did not respond to the second delinquency notice, which was also unclaimed, nor did he respond to an inquiry letter sent from the Judiciary Commission's Office of Special Counsel (" OSC" ) on October 22, 2012, regarding his 2011 Statement. On February 26, 2013, the Commission filed a Formal Charge against Respondent. He was served with the Formal Charge on March 5, 2013, but failed to file an answer thereto; he also failed to answer the OSC's discovery requests.

[2014-2335 La. 3] Thereafter, the matter was set for a hearing before a hearing officer, retired Judge Andrew Gallagher, on May 24, 2013. As of the date of the hearing, Respondent still had not filed his 2011 Statement. During the hearing, Respondent testified that he " overlooked" filing his 2011 Statement because he had " a lot on his mind," and he was dealing with personal issues -- specifically, he was caring for his mother and mother-in-law, who both were ill, the cumulative effect of which prevented him from timely filing his 2011 Statement. However, Respondent admitted his mother's illness and his mother-in-law's illness were " no excuse," and that he " should have taken care of [his] job." Respondent also admitted that he did not open the certified mail sent to him by the JAO and the OSC.

Following the hearing, the hearing officer filed findings of fact and conclusions of law with the Commission. In his report, the hearing officer found that Respondent failed to timely file his 2011 Statement, and that his failure was willful and knowing, as that term is defined in Rule XXXIX, because he made a purposeful choice not to take the time, trouble, or effort to comply with the rule. The Commissioners then invited, but did not order or require, Respondent to appear before them on August 23, 2013, to make a ...


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