Louisiana Record

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Former New Orleans Public Defender suspension over stalking case made official

By Karen Kidd | Oct 5, 2017

New Orleans attorney and former public defender Trisha Ann Ward has been suspended following a Sept. 29 Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary proceeding after her guilty plea late last year to stalking a male coworker's wife, with whom she'd had a romantic relationship.

Ward was suspended for a year and day, retroactive to the initial date of her interim suspension, according to the disciplinary proceeding. Ward was placed on interim suspension in December, shortly after her guilty plea and agreement with the couple's attorneys.

Her psychiatrist "did not uncover any evidence that the behavior was related to mental illness," the disciplinary proceeding said.

Ward was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on April 14, 2008, according to her profile at the Louisiana State Bar's website. Ward had no other discipline before the state bar, according to the disciplinary proceeding.

Prior to Ward's disciplinary hearing, the office of disciplinary counsel filed a protective order motion to "protect the identity of the victims arising from the [Ward's] misconduct and under circumstances that are sensitive, highly personal and injurious," the high court's disciplinary proceeding said. The hearing committee chair granted the motion and the couple throughout the state high court's disciplinary proceeding are referred to by their initials, S.S. and his wife, J.H.

Ward began working in the News Orleans public defender’s office in 2008 and became friends with J.H. after S.S. hired her, and their friendship eventually became romantic, according to the disciplinary proceeding.

J.H. ended the relationship Oct. 28, 2013, but Ward sent repeated emails and the following evening went to the couple's house and "cursed and called J.H.'s name repeatedly" and entered the house, according to the disciplinary proceeding.

S.S. kicked her out and both he and J.H called police, according to the disciplinary proceeding. "Despite this incident, Ward continued to communicate with J.H.," the proceeding said.

"J.H. emailed her that the relationship between them was over and requested that she stop trying to communicate with her and get on with her life."

In December 2013, Ward again entered the couple's home and encountered the house-sitter's fiancee, who reported it to the couple, according to the disciplinary proceeding. Following that home intrusion, the couple filed a criminal complaint and obtained stay-away orders directed at Ward, the proceeding said.

A two year suspension was originally recommended by a majority of the Office of the State Disciplinary hearing committee last October, but a disciplinary board review recommended one year and a day, noting that she had not been punished before and did not suffer from emotional issues.

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Organizations in this Story

Louisiana State Bar Association Louisiana Supreme Court