LAKE CHARLES — Patricia Minaldi, a U.S. district judge in Lake Charles, announced her retirement July 31 and is seeking treatment for severe alcoholism.
Minaldi had taken medical leave seven months ago, and her alcoholism is also at the center of a lawsuit against her.
Minaldi is shown here in 2013 speaking at the Empowering Women Luncheon in Sulphur, Louisiana. | Marilyn Monroe/Associated Press
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay alleged that Minaldi’s disease, which was behind a DUI charge in 2014, affected Minaldi so strongly that Kay doubted the judge’s competence in handling her own personal affairs. The presiding judge ordered the records sealed for the interdiction proceeding meant to determine whether Minadi was competent enough to make her own decisions. The American Press later requested for the documents to be unsealed, a move viewed by some experts as unusual in a civil case, and in April the presiding judge obliged.
Reports allege that Minaldi’s behavior became increasingly erratic in the court room, leading to her removal from several criminal cases. In light of her retirement and the presumed motivation, the judge’s previous cases are unlikely to under question.
“The vast majority of cases that were resolved before her were resolved in guilty pleas," Dane Ciolino, professor of law at Loyola University and legal ethics expert, told the Louisiana Record. "It’s the rare federal criminal case that results in a trial. Her conduct on the bench is going to have virtually no effect on the validity of proceedings that happen before her.”
However, the idea is not completely out of the realm of possibility.
“I would imagine that an isolated and creative criminal defendant that will make an argument that there was some constitutional defect in the proceedings, but I can’t imagine it will be many or that any will be successful," Ciolino said.
Ciolino also spoke to The Record on the likelihood of whether Minaldi would have incurred disciplinary measures had she not chosen to step down.
“The only way to remove a federal judge is through the cumbersome impeachment process," he said. "It’s happened only a couple dozen times in the history of the Republic. It’s not easy to do, or quick."
He did say that would have ultimately depended on how egregious her conduct had been.