NEW ORLEANS – A professor of law says it is hard to determine if the conviction of an Orleans Parish judge for fraud has undermined public confidence in the judiciary.
Last month, Yolanda King, an Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judge, was given a suspended one-year jail sentence. In addition, King was ordered to serve two years of probation, perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.
She faced up to five years in jail after she was convicted last year of filing false public records and forging election documents. Prosecutors said King lied on a candidacy form in 2013 when she claimed to live in New Orleans but really resided in Slidell. Judicial candidates must have maintained “habitual residence” in the parish where they want to serve for at least 12 months before the election, according to the state constitution.
David Katner, director of the Tulane Law School Juvenile Law Clinic, said it is hard to know whether or not King’s conviction has damaged faith in judicial integrity.
“I know of no metric that applies to loss of public confidence other than anecdotal accounts,” Katner told the Louisiana Record.
Public interest in judicial elections is already very low, he said.
King’s conviction has had more concrete ramifications because it cost the taxpayers money to hold elections and candidates spent funds in a contest that was eventually overturned, Katner said. Disqualifying King before the election would have been the appropriate solution, Katner said.
From time to time, judges in Louisiana have engaged in behavior while sitting on the bench that does not serve the public interest, Katner said. But King’s conviction does not fit this pattern, he said, because the fraud occurred before she became a judge.
“I think this case is simply ... an individual seeking public office in a community where they did not reside,” Katner said.
The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended King after she was indicted in 2014, but Katner said King could face more severe punishment if the Louisiana Bar Association decides to discipline or disbar her.