Judge Leo Boothe's signature
NEW ORLEANS – A northeastern Louisiana state judge is facing removal from the bench over alleged violations in the handling of a criminal case.
Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Leo Boothe is under scrutiny by the state's high court after the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana found Boothe violated ethics rules when he reduced the sentence of a man who was incarcerated for distribution of cocaine.
During a commission hearing in mid-May Boothe said, "I would not change what I did that day because that man deserved justice."
The man in question was James Skipper, who was found guilty of cocaine distribution in 2002 and sentenced to 25 years in jail, a sentence that was later reduced to 12 years with time served by Boothe in 2008.
Boothe claims 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."
Boothe has set up a website dedicated to his defense at www.leoboothe.com.
On the website, Boothe claims Judge Johnson and Connor conspired to "discredit me by filing motions to recuse me" 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.
Boothe alleges on the website that the conflict arises out of Johnson's "ambition to become chief judge of the Seventh Judicial District." The website also lists Judge Sharon Marchamn of Monroe, a Judiciary Committee member, as a close friend of Johnson's who harbored a personal bias against Boothe and helped initiate the Judiciary Commission hearing.
The Judiciary Commission claims the proceedings were started in response to newspaper articles written on the case.
The Judiciary Commission found that Boothe held the reconsideration hearing without jurisdiction, failed to recuse himself and engaged in improper ex parte communications via letters he exchanged with Skipper but did not enter into the court record.
The commission recommended Boothe be removed from the bench and offered its report to the Louisiana Supreme Court in early August. The report also states that Boothe has been the subject of several prior disciplinary complaints.
On his website, Boothe claims that during the commission hearing he was not allowed to call any witnesses for his side of the story.
The Seventh Judicial District encompasses Catahoula and Concordia Parishes and has a combined population around 30,000.
The Louisiana Supreme Court will hear arguments on Sept. 7.