NEW ORLEANS – A justice of the peace in Jefferson Parish is barred from performing his duties pending an investigation into alleged misuse of court funds in withdrawals made at casinos.
On Aug. 31, an official Louisiana Supreme Court document recommended that, effective immediately, Justice of the Peace Patrick DeJean, Second Justice Court of the Jefferson Parish, be disqualified from exercising any judicial function during investigative proceedings based on alleged misuse of court funds – more than $217,000 in public money.
A Sept. 6 article in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans explained that DeJean was temporarily disqualified from his role as officials investigate whether he misused thousands of dollars in garnishment payments and public funds.
The Sept. 6 article said the state judiciary commission allegedly found that from August 2011 through September 2013, DeJean withdrew more than $217,000 from the court's operating account at several casinos for personal use.
“Louisiana's Supreme Court disqualified Patrick DeJean of the Second Justice Court in Marrero after the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana reported that there is evidence of him improperly handling garnishment payments, depositing those payments into his court's operating account and then using those funds for himself,” the article said. “According to the commission's 17-page recommendation for DeJean to be disqualified, there is evidence indicating he frequently made cash withdrawals from his court's operating account at several casinos. He funded those withdrawals in part with garnishment payments coming into his court and with money loaned by a bank to his court, according to the commission's document.”
The court document explained that the operating amount was overdrawn on numerous occasions after the garnishment money and bank loans were deposited.
In 2014, DeJean was also accused of obtaining over $52,000 in secured loans to pay for computers, software and furnishings for the court, and used that property as collateral to secure the loan.
First Bank and Trust of New Orleans filed suit against DeJean, seeking immediate repayment of the outstanding amount, $44,000, after officials became concerned about the manner in which the loan was secured.
"Pretty much it's almost like a private loan,” DeJean said in an interview. “If it wasn't paid, they would come in and take the property.”
Now, with $217,000 in public money allegedly misappropriated, DeJean claims his bookkeeping was sloppy, but he did not use funds unethically.
“DeJean's attorney Dane Ciolino addressed his client's concerns two days after Louisiana's Supreme Court temporarily disqualified DeJean from his duties,” the Sept. 6 article said. “The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana submitted a disqualification recommendation to the court, accusing DeJean of using garnishment payments and taking out unauthorized loans to ‘regularly engage in gambling practices that possibly reflect a gambling problem.’"
The commission said it had credible evidence showing that DeJean was involved in misconduct, but Ciolino stated the commission had not shown that evidence.
“Ciolino said Wednesday (Sept. 7) DeJean ‘denies any willful wrongdoing,’” the article said. “The attorney's 152-page report, intended to oppose the Judiciary Commission's recommendation, includes documents like affidavits, financial records and additional notes to disprove the commission's allegations.”
Despite DeJean’s willingness to provide evidence to absolve him, the amount of funds allegedly used has raised some concerns, and the article explained that the FBI and the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office are also investigating DeJean for similar allegations.