William P. Quigley
A Louisiana district judge has announced plans to retire in the midst of serving a yearlong suspension related to a pattern of abuse of his powers.
Judicial District Court Judge Robin Free’s final day on the job was July 13. His current suspension stemmed from making comments in front of a victim's family indicating a preference for prosecutors, abusing his contempt authority in two separate cases, making inappropriate comments toward women during domestic abuse proceedings, and using slang when speaking to defendants in several other criminal cases.
At the time his suspension was announced, the Louisiana Supreme Court indicated Free was being relieved of his duties for “failing to maintain the integrity of his position” and since then several local media outlets have reported he is alleged to have interfered with traffic stops by West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies.
The judicial commission probe of Free's alleged actions is reported to be ongoing.
“The judiciary is a very important part of our constitutional government,” William P. Quigley, law professor and director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans, told the Louisiana Record. “A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and shall personally observe, high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved."
As recently as three years ago, Free was suspended without pay for a month and ordered to pay back thousands of dollars stemming from a 2009 incident where the Louisiana Supreme Court found the judge should have recused himself from a case.
Roughly a year later, the Louisiana high court charged that Free accepted a free trip from a lawyer whose client won a $1.2 million suit in his courtroom.
“Unfortunately, Louisiana authorities have received and have had to act on numerous complaints over the years about Judge Free,” Quigley said. “When a judge repeatedly fails to act respectfully and professionally, such misconduct undercuts the public's confidence in the entire judiciary.”
Free was elected to the bench in 1996 and his district covered West Baton Rouge, Iberville, and Pointe Coupee Parishes.
By announcing his retirement, Quigley speculated that all judicial investigations of Free will cease.