Judge recuses from litigation over control of popular New Orleans Catholic high school

Alejandro de los Rios Aug. 22, 2011, 12:52pm

Orleans Parish Judge Kern Reese recused himself from overseeing litigation over the control of New Orleans' historic St. Augustine High School, according to an order signed today in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

St. Augustine has been the site of a contentious legal dispute between its former principle, John Raphael, and the Josephite Order of Priests that owns and operate the school.

Up until late 2010, St. Augustine was the last high school in the country that still used corporal punishment. When the Josephites put a halt to the practice, thousands of students, teachers and alumni protested the change, with Raphael and the school board as their leaders.

Reese, a St. Augustine alumnus whose two sons attended the school, said that Raphael is a man he knows "very well and deeply admire."

"Fr. John Raphael is my friend," the order states. "This court realizes it smacks of impropriety to preside over a case wherein a person with whom you have a personal relationship has an interest in the outcome."

Lawsuits over this issue were filed by Raphael in Orleans Parish and by the Josephites in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The Josephites successfully petitioned U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey to issue a temporary restraining order removing the school's board of trustees from their leadership petition.

After Zainey issued the order Aug. 2, WWL-TV reported that parents of St. Augustine students and members of the school board wrote a letter asking Zainey to recuse himself because of his connections with the New Orleans Archdiocese and the Catholic Church.

Zainey has not addressed the calls for his recusal with any type of order.

The federal litigation came as a response to a lawsuit filed by Raphael seeking an injunction against the Josephites from removing him as principal.

Reese's recusal transferred the case to Judge Herbert Cade. Cade, also a St. Augustine graduate, immediately recused himself and the case is now presiding under Judge Piper Griffin.

Orleans Parish Case 2011-8666 and Federal Suit 2:11-cv-01616

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