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In re Hoffman

Supreme Court of Louisiana

April 10, 2015

IN RE: JUSTICE OF THE PEACE KEVIN J. HOFFMAN ST. BERNARD PARISH, WARD A STATE OF LOUISIANA

JUDICIARY COMMISSION OF LOUISIANA

[2014-2623 La. 1] PER CURIAM

This matter arises from a recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (" Commission" ) regarding Justice of the Peace Kevin J. Hoffman's failure to comply with the financial reporting requirements of Supreme Court Rule XXXIX. For the reasons set forth below, we find the record establishes by clear and convincing evidence that Justice of the Peace Hoffman failed to comply with the financial disclosure requirement of Rule XXXIX, thereby subjecting him to a civil monetary penalty. We further find that his failure to comply with the financial disclosure requirement was willful and knowing. After considering the facts, circumstances, and applicable law, Justice of the Peace Hoffman is ordered to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $2,000.00, plus costs of $276.00.

UNDERLYING FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Supreme Court Rule XXXIX requires the filing of annual financial disclosure

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statements by judges and justices of the peace.[1] Pursuant to § 3 of the rule, every elected justice of the peace must file his or her financial statement by May 15th of each year, using a form prescribed by the Judicial Administrator's Office (" JAO" ) for that purpose. Rule XXXIX, § 3(B) and (C).

[2014-2623 La. 2] The first financial statements required of justices of the peace were due for calendar year 2009, to be filed no later than May 15, 2010. However, Justice of the Peace Hoffman did not file his 2009 financial statement until October 19, 2010, after the Commission filed a Formal Charge against him.[2] In In re: Hoffman, 11-0417 (La. 7/1/11), 66 So.3d 455 (" Hoffman I " ), this court found that Justice of the Peace Hoffman failed to comply with the financial disclosure requirement of Rule XXXIX, thereby subjecting him to a civil monetary penalty. Nevertheless, we found no evidence that Justice of the Peace Hoffman acted in bad faith or that he had purposely chosen not to file his financial disclosure statement to obtain some personal or professional gain. We also considered that the financial disclosure rule was newly adopted and that justices of the peace, who are not necessarily attorneys, may have confused the financial disclosure rule with other financial reporting requirements. Under these circumstances, we concluded that Justice of the Peace Hoffman's conduct did not rise to the level of a willful and knowing violation. Accordingly, we imposed a civil penalty of only $200.00 for Justice of the Peace Hoffman's violation of Rule XXXIX. We cautioned, however, that in the future justices of the peace would not be granted such leniency, as justices of the peace are held to a high standard and they are often called upon to enforce deadlines on litigants before their courts, and must likewise show respect for the deadlines this court has imposed on all judicial officers, without exception.[3]

[2014-2623 La. 3] Justice of the Peace Hoffman's 2011 financial statement was due on May 15, 2012. However, it is undisputed that it was not received by that date. Accordingly, on June 11, 2012, the JAO sent Justice of the Peace Hoffman 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 Arabi Post Office, the JAO sent another letter dated July 6, 2012 to

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Justice of the Peace Hoffman's address listed with the Louisiana Secretary of State's Office, extending the filing deadline to July 30, 2012. Justice of the Peace Hoffman did not file his 2011 Statement by either the July 3, 2012 or the July 30, 2012 deadlines. Instead, he filed it on August 24, 2012, more than three months (102 days) after the May 15th due date and almost a month after the extended due date of July 30th.

On April 2, 2013, the Commission filed a Formal Charge against Justice of the Peace Hoffman. Following the filing of an answer, the matter was set for a hearing before a hearing officer on June 17, 2013. During the hearing, Justice of the Peace Hoffman testified that he was aware of his obligation to file the financial disclosure statement, but the matter " slipped through the crack" due to the demands placed upon him by the illness and death of his father. He also explained that the delay was attributable to confusion between the current matter and the contempt matter stemming from his 2009 financial disclosure case. See note 3, supra.

Following the hearing, the hearing officer filed findings of fact and conclusions of law with the Commission. In his report, the hearing officer found [2014-2623 La. 4] that Justice of the Peace Hoffman 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 conscious and deliberate choice not to take the time, trouble, or effort to comply with the rule. The Commissioners then invited, but did not order or require, Justice of the Peace Hoffman to appear before them on August 23, 2013 to make a statement concerning the hearing officer's report and the penalty issue. Justice of the Peace Hoffman did not attend the August meeting, nor did he file a brief.

On December 16, 2014, the Commission filed its recommendation in this court. In its report, the Commission generally adopted the hearing officer's proposed conclusions of fact and law, and found the allegations of the Formal Charge were proven by clear and convincing evidence. The Commission observed that Justice of the Peace Hoffman was undoubtedly aware of the Reporting Rule and familiar with the financial disclosure form, especially given his involvement in prior proceedings before the Commission and the court regarding his failure to timely file his 2009 Statement. In addition, Justice of the Peace Hoffman attended several Justice of the Peace and Constable Conferences, which included sessions on the financial disclosure form and ...


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