NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court recently appointed Suzanne Stinson of Bossier to a commission dedicated to the investigation and review of judicial misconduct claims against Louisiana judges.
The Judiciary Commission itself works closely with the Office of Special Counsel in an effort to root out unethical practices on Louisiana’s benches. Stinson, who described her appointment as an honor, was one of three new members appointed to the commission, including New Orleans attorneys Philip Sherman and Fred Herman.
“Basically, it sees to cases where the judge could be accused of something unethical," Stinson recently told the Louisiana Record. "Most of these complaints are vetted at the level of the Office of Special Counsel, because you’ll always have parties unhappy with rulings judges have made. (The) majority of cases are vetted and don’t necessarily reach the level to be brought to the Judicial Commission, but we see the rest."
The commission is a mix of civilians like Stinson, a retired court administrator for the 26th Judicial District Court of Bossier and Webster parishes, attorneys and judges. According to Stinson, it allows for an eclectic mix of values when evaluating cases.
“It gives different perspectives," she said. "Judges see what they see behind the bench. Attorneys deal with judges from trial level (and) are advocates for their particular positions. Citizen members sometimes don’t have any exposure to the judicial system. They come in from a vantage point where they don’t have any experience with the judiciary. That allows them to avoid bias."
That said, Stinson herself is far from inexperienced in the legal world. For 33 years, she has worked with judges’ offices and the judiciary, served as past president of the Louisiana Court Administrators Association and National Association for Court Management, and was on the board of directors for the National Center for State Courts. Additionally, two separate chief justices appointed her to the Judicial Compensation Commission.
A fellow of the Institute for Court Management with a Certificate of Judicial Administration from Michigan State University, she also notes one of her proudest moments came care of John Roberts, chief justice of the United States.
“There were less than 20 people in my graduating class, but Chief Justice Roberts was keynote speaker, and when he spoke he made reference to a paper of mine," Stinson said. "(It was a) very surreal experience; highlight of my career."
That career began with graduating magna cum laude from Louisiana Tech University, followed by earning a Master of Business Administration and Master of Arts in Industrial Psychology before Stinson moved into the working world. Today, she is married to retired Judge Ford Stinson of the 26th District Court, Bossier and Webster parishes.
The Louisiana Judiciary Commission was created in 1968. It is composed of nine members appointed by the LSC, and is divided into three equal representations of judges, attorneys and civilians. Their role with the cases they review are as independent advisers to the LSC, with their jurisdiction encompassing courts at all levels of state function.