NEW ORLEANS – Judges can break the
A law professor at Louisiana State
University says provisions in the judicial code of conduct could be triggered
if allegations against four Louisiana district judges are able to be proven in federal
The four judges, Carl Sharp,
Frederic Amman, J. Wilson Rambo and Benjamin Jones, are being sued by fellow
Judge Sharon Marchman in U.S. District Court for covering up an alleged payroll
scheme dating to 2010, and allegedly retaliating against Marchman when she attempted to
Marchman says the judges were protecting a clerk who
Marchman had accused of fraud and document destruction.
N. Gregory Smith, a professor of law at Louisiana State
University, told the Louisiana Record that, if proven to be true, the allegations
would be covered under provisions in the Code of Judicial Conduct.
“If a judge actually engages in wrongdoing, the judge could
be subject to discipline,” Smith said. “In particular, if a judge engages in an
illegal act, the judge might be found to have violated one or more provisions.”
An example of misconduct?
“Payroll fraud, for instance,” the professor said.
Smith said three canons from the code could apply to the
The first canon, that a judge should uphold the integrity
and independence of judiciary, is an indispensable concept in the nation’s
judicial system, Smith said.
“The provisions of this code are to be construed and applied
to further that objective,” Smith said. “As a necessary corollary, the judge
must be protected in the exercise of judicial independence.”
Canon 2 involves a judge avoiding impropriety or the
appearance of impropriety.
Canon 3 is similar, in that it requires a judge to perform
his duties impartially.
“A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act
at all times in a matter that promotes public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary,” Smith said, adding that the position carries
with it “high standards of conduct” to promote independence and fairness.
He said, while Canons 1 and 2 could apply to a situation in
which a judge engages in illegal conduct, Canon 3 could apply to a judge who
has a supervisory responsibility over a court employee – and permits that
employee to engage in job-connected illegal conduct.
“A judge shall require staff, court officials, and others,
subject to the judge’s direction and control, to observe the standards of
fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge and to refrain from manifesting
bias or prejudice in the performance of their official duties,” Smith said.
Smith said that it is important for judges to comply with
the law and to observe high standards of conduct to preserve public confidence
in the judiciary.
If that’s lost, the rule of law isn’t far behind.
“As members of the public, we want to be subject to the rule
of law, not subject to self-serving orders of corrupt officials,” Smith said.
“If we have confidence in the judiciary, we are more apt to abide by judicial
decision, even if we disagree with them. That is good for public order.”