NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) — Suspended Winnfield attorney Laura J. Johnson, admitted to the bar in Louisiana almost 39 years ago, faces possible disbarment following a July 3 recommendation by a Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) hearing committee over her alleged misconduct on behalf of a client in a 2015 criminal case.
"This committee is still perplexed at the true reasoning for [Johnson]'s actions," LADB Hearing Committee No. 18 said in its 11-page recommendation. "This committee has listened to hours of recordings and the reading of transcripts searching for an answer. One was not to be found. [Johnson] gained nothing personally from her actions other than the 'satisfaction' of keeping the criminal defendant out of jail and continuing his probation [although only for a short time longer]."
The hearing committee found that Johnson, 70, intentionally engaged in a criminal act "which was dishonest and deceitful", the recommendation said.
Johnson was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on Oct. 5, 1979, according to her profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website. Johnson "has significant prior discipline in Louisiana", the recommendation said.
Johnson was placed on interim suspension "for threat of harm" following a November 2015 Supreme Court order.
The hearing committee's recommendation followed a complaint filed by Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Jacque D. Derr, who in August 2015 alerted the office of disciplinary counsel that restitution funds were missing in criminal matter, according to the recommendation. Derr told the ODC that "there was evidence that [Johnson] may have converted those funds," the recommendation said.
"Judge Derr again wrote to the ODC on Sept. 7, 2015, to advise that [Johnson] had been arrested by police for suspicion of felony theft."
The committee found Johnson "knowingly and intentionally" fabricated a false receipt for her client in a theft-by-fraud criminal case for $24,500 that was supposed to be for restitution in his case. The "lengthy recordings" the committee listened to suggested "she was under some sort of pure manipulation by this criminal defendant" but a motive for Johnson's actions remains elusive, the recommendation said.
"She states that she was 'laying her life down for another' in the aspect of Biblical speaking," the recommendation said. "However, she gives no reason as to why she felt that she needed to do that."