SHREVEPORT – The heated pursuit for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal judge turned scalding as both candidates were found in violation of the Louisiana Judicial Code of Conduct for statements made against each other in their campaigns.
The Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee of the Louisiana Supreme Court , which helps monitor and deter unethical judicial campaign conduct, issued two public statements Nov. 4 regarding complaints filed against both candidates for allegations they violated the Judicial Code of Conduct.
District Judge Jeff Cox and incumbent Judge Jay Caraway were both found to violate the code of conduct for making false statements about each other, a violation of Canon 7A(9), which states that candidates, “shall not knowingly make, or cause to be made, a false statement concerning the identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent.”
The Caraway statement points to a complaint filed against him regarding an assertion posted to Caraway’s campaign committee Facebook page named the Jeff Cox Record, which states: “Jeff Cox spent $33,500 to help elect Hillary Clinton.”
“This statement is based on a ballot produced by the Webster United Minority Voter’s League, which endorses Hillary Clinton and Judge Cox, among others. Judge Cox’s appearance on this ballot with other candidates for public office does not constitute an endorsement by Judge Cox of the candidates with which he appears,” The Oversight Committee said. As such, the committee found the statement to be false and in violation of the code of conduct.
Caraway’s campaign committee forwarded the ballot in question along with Cox’s expenditure line documenting his payment to the Webster United Minority Voter’s League to the Louisiana Record.
“The committee said our statement was false because they found he did not endorse Hillary Clinton. Our disputed campaign statement was not based on any knowledge of whether he endorsed other candidates on the ballot, only that his payment for the ballot and its distribution helped in an effort to elect himself, Hillary Clinton and the other candidates on the ballot,” a representative told the Louisiana Record.
The campaign said the $33,500 payment to the Voters League is an undisputed fact, and was obtained directly from Cox’s campaign disclosure statement to the Louisiana Ethics Board.
“The Oversight Committee's ruling properly confirmed that ‘a ballot produced by the Webster United Minority Voter’s League ... endorses Hillary Clinton and Judge Jeff Cox.’ Our campaign's position has been that Jeff Cox's $33,500 payment to the Voters League helps to elect Hillary Clinton by getting out the vote for both Jeff Cox and Hillary Clinton. We therefore stand by our position that Jeff Cox's $33,500 is supporting a ballot that helps elect Hillary Clinton,” Caraway’s representative said.
“The Oversight Committee also found [Nov. 4] that for the second time Jeff Cox has lied about his 53 percent reversal rate,” Caraway’s representative told the Louisiana Record.
Issued on the same day as Caraway’s, the Oversight Committee said the complaint against Cox “Concerns a mailer that was sent out on behalf of Judge Cox by his campaign committee. The mailer states, ‘…Judge Cox has ruled on over 30,000 cases and 99 percent of those decisions stand.”
The committee found the statement violates the code of conduct stating, “To the extent that it implies that Judge Cox has made over 30,000 appealable rulings which have been reviewed and upheld by a higher court.”
This is the second violation in one week for Cox. The Oversight Committee issued a statement Oct. 31 regarding a mailer that was sent out on behalf of Cox by his campaign committee.
“The Committee believes the mailer misrepresents the facts of State v. Montgomery, supra, involved the appropriate bail amount for a defendant arrested for aggravated rape. The mailer at issue identifies the defendant as a ‘suspected murderer’ and charges that Judge Cox's opponent, Judge Jay Caraway, ‘agreed to reverse the district court bond decision, allowing [the defendant] to go free,” the statement said.
The Oversight Committee noted the defendant was not actually indicted for principal manslaughter until May 15, 2014. Caraway, as a member of a three-judge panel, reduced the defendant's bail obligation on the charge of aggravated rape April 11, 2014, before the indictment for principal manslaughter. The bail obligation was reduced from $500,000 to $100,000 by the three-judge panel, not eliminated.
Cox’s campaign did not respond to the Louisiana Record’s requests for comment.
The Oversight Committee, established in 2002, consists of 15 court-appointed members and includes retired judges, lawyers and citizens who are neither lawyers nor judges. If at least two-thirds of the members decide there is enough evidence of a violation, the committee issues a public statement.