NEW ORLEANS – St. Bernard Parish District Judge Jacques Sanborn must pay a $2,400 penalty for missing a deadline to disclose his finances, the Supreme Court of Louisiana decided on Nov. 30.
Justice Jeannette Knoll wrote, "He is often called upon to enforce filing deadlines on the litigants before his court, and must likewise show respect for the deadlines this Court has imposed on all judges of this state, without exception."
The Justices spared Sanborn from possible prosecution by finding he didn't act willfully and knowingly.
At oral argument on Oct. 20, Knoll said, "I don't know that a district attorney would be interested in this."
"It sounds like he was pretty negligent but not ugly negligent," Knoll said.
The Justices enforced for the first time a rule they adopted in 2008, requiring detailed annual financial statements from judges and justices of the peace.
In March 2009, the judicial administration office sent a letter to all judges advising them to send statements by May 15.
The letter provided that a judge who obtained an extension to file a tax return for 2008 could send the statement 30 days after filing the return.
Sanborn reported an extension to Oct. 15, 2009, moving the deadline for his financial report back to Nov. 15.
On Oct. 27, attorney Kerry Lentini of the administration office sent a reminder by email.
He didn't respond, and the deadline passed.
On Nov. 23, Lentini sent email directing him to file immediately.
He didn't respond, and the office mailed a delinquency notice requiring the report or other written answer by Jan. 5, 2010.
He missed the deadline and sent a letter 22 days later, stating he hadn't filed his tax return but expected to do so very soon.
"By this time Judge Sanborn's tax return was long overdue, as he had never requested an additional extension past the October 15, 2009 deadline," Knoll wrote.
His report arrived at the office on Feb. 17.
The office referred Sanborn to the Judiciary Commission, and after a hearing Judge Jules Edwards III found his violation willful and knowing.
Edwards referred Sanborn to the Supreme Court.
"Somewhat incredibly, Judge Sanborn filed an untimely opposition brief on October 18, 2010, only two days before oral argument," Knoll wrote.
"He claims his accountant advised him it was unnecessary to file on time, as he was due a refund," she wrote.
"Respondent points to no provision of the U.S. tax code permitting a taxpayer to file an untimely income tax return provided he is due a refund," she wrote.
"Judge Sanborn effectively argues his violation of federal law also permits him to violate this Court's rules," she wrote.
"We do not agree," she wrote.
The Justices assessed $100 per day from the Jan. 5 deadline in the delinquency notice to the arrival of his response at the administration office on Jan. 29.