Baton Rouge attorney, former district judge candidate suspended for mismanaging client's trust account

By Karen Kidd | Jun 10, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — Baton Rouge attorney Kevin Lovell “Celestine” James, who lost her bid for 18th Judicial District Judge last year, has been placed on suspension and probation following a June 3 Louisiana Supreme Court attorney disciplinary proceeding over alleged trust-account issues.

In its single-page attorney disciplinary proceeding, the Supreme Court accepted a joint petition for consent discipline reached between James and the office of disciplinary counsel and handed down a year-and-a-day suspension, with all but 30 days deferred. The court also placed James on two years of supervised probation, to be governed by the conditions in the petition for consent discipline.

James' probation will begin on the day that she, the office of disciplinary counsel and the assigned probation monitor execute a formal probation plan, according to the disciplinary proceeding.

"Any failure of [James] to comply with the conditions of probation, or any misconduct during the probationary period, may be grounds for making the deferred suspension executory, or imposing additional discipline, as appropriate," the disciplinary proceeding said.

The court also ordered James to pay all costs in the matter.

James was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on Oct. 24, 1975, according to her profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website. No prior discipline was listed on her state bar profile or in a search of Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board's online database.

The office of disciplinary counsel's formal charges against James followed an investigation into allegations that she mismanaged her client trust account, according to the disciplinary proceeding. James did not cooperate with the office of disciplinary counsel during its investigation but reached the petition for consent discipline after the office filed formal charges.

James came in last in a five-candidate field during the March 2018 primary election for the office of longtime 18th Judicial District Judge J. Robin Free, who resigned in June of the previous year. James took only 6 percent of the vote, leaving the top vote-getting candidates, Republican Tom McCormick and unaffiliated Tonya Smith Lurry in a runoff the following month. Lurry went on to win the seat.

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