BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled to suspend St. Tammany attorney James D. Mecca from the practice of law for allegedly accepting drugs as payment of legal services.
The ruling, which was filed on Jan. 20, 2017, was the result of charges brought up against the attorney by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
In December 2013, the narcotics division of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a cooperating individual — or “CI” — with information on Mecca’s alleged misconduct. The CI claimed that she was approached by Mecca at the parish courthouse, where he reportedly offered his legal services in exchange for marijuana. The CI told authorities that she had previously participated in the deal on three separate occasions during a time frame of more than a year. During the conversation, the CI asked Mecca how much the services would cost them, to which the attorney allegedly said it would be the same amount as each time before indicating that he would accept the drug as payment.
The narcotics department arranged for the CI to contact Mecca via telephone to further discuss the deal. Over a recorded phone call, the CI informed Meccas that he had a large amount “of smoke,” later elaborating that he had an amount equating to a full backpack to offer Mecca. The attorney was allegedly excited by the offer and accepted the terms.
A “controlled exchange” was set up for Dec. 20, 2013, in Covington. Law-enforcement officers provided approximately a half-pound of marijuana to the CI with an estimated street value of $2,500. The exchange was made, and the attorney left the parking lot. Law-enforcement agents followed him and commenced a traffic stop. He was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, and failure to stop at a stop sign.
Mecca contacted the ODC in mid-January 2014 after a news report on his arrest was released by the New Orleans media. The attorney relayed his intent to work with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, a service provided by the Louisiana State Bar to aid its members through personal issues that may affect their professional work. Mecca was then admitted to the Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center, where he was diagnosed with alcohol and cannabis dependence stemming from the death of his father a few years prior.
Upon successfully completing a 90-day program in April 2014, Mecca signed a five-year recovery agreement with the JLAP. Mecca pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to six months in jail and placed on one year of probation. The state Supreme Court took Mecca’s compliance with the ODC and JLAP into mitigation and determined that a one-year suspension would be sufficient discipline.
According to its website, the Louisiana Supreme Court is located in New Orleans and was established in 1813 as the highest court in the state. It is presided over by seven justices: Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson, who was appointed in February 2013; Greg G. Guidry; Scott J. Crichton; Jeannette T. Knoll; Marcus R. Clark; Jefferson D. Hughes III; and John L. Weimer.