Kyle Barnett Mar. 13, 2014, 7:59am

NEW ORLEANS – A northeastern Louisiana district judge who was suspended for one year after he was found to have improper communications with a drug dealer he later provided a reduced sentence to is set to return to the bench.

The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Leo Boothe last March after they found he had violated ethics rules by reconsidering a hearing for convicted cocaine dealer James Skipper when he reduced his 25 year sentence to 12 years with time served. In addition, the court found he engaged in improper communication with Skipper and  failed to recuse himself in the case.

After the ethics violation allegations arose, Boothe claimed he reduced the sentence upon hearing fellow Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Kathy Johnson provided Skipper legal advice during a phone call with Skipper’s nephew Justin Connor. Boothe alleges that during the phone call Skipper was being manipulated to “advance the political objectives of others at his own legal interests.”

When fighting the charges Boothe further set up a website where he claimed Judge Johnson and Connor conspired in an attempt to discredit him by filing motions of recusal and that it came to his attention that the two advised Skipper to not take a plea bargain, which resulted in a harsh penalty when he was found guilty in a unanimous verdict at trial.

In addition, Boothe made claims that Johnson reported the violation out of her ambition to become head judge of the court and that Judge Sharon Marchamn of Monroe, a Judiciary Commission member, was a close friend of Johnson’s who harbored a personal bias against Boothe and helped initiate the Judiciary Commission hearing.
Boothe is set to return to the bench on March 15.

The Seventh Judicial District encompasses Catahoula and Concordia Parishes and has a combined population around 30,000. Judges who sit on the court hear both criminal and civil cases.

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