Gorden Russell at the Times Picayune filed a lengthy story today on insurance defense firm Adams and Reese traffic ticket fixing division headed up by A&R Partner and New Orleans traffic court judge Ronald Sholes. The allegations and related evidence in support of are old hat for our regular readers on this topic that come visit us in great number on occasion. We welcome you guys back with us today.
To catch our new readers up Jamie Perdigao was a partner at Adams and Reese who had a client by the name of Robert Guidry. He claims Guidry bribed US Representative Dollar Bill Jefferson to intercede on his behalf with Eddie Jordan to save his Treasure Chest Casino from the feds in the Edwin Edwards prosecution. As T-P columnist James Gill well sums up in his column found here, Guidry ended up with a very sweet deal.
Mr Perdigao is sharing these allegations publicly because he is currently now under federal indictment for allegedly bilking Adams and Reese out of 30 million dollars. He worked with and cooperated for a time with current US Attorney and former Eddie Jordan #2 Jim Letten after he was indicted but the relationship fell apart over the Guidry allegations according to Mr Perdigao. Mr Letten, of course would have detailed knowledge of the Edwards prosecution.
And back to the 30 million dollars Mr Perdigao allegedly stole from Adams and Reese for a minute. It seems they do not want it back instead allowing Letten and Company to hang on to it. Frankly the more we found out the more this entire affair reminded us slabbers of the smell of a rotting garfish. In any event Mr Perdigao has maintained all along he has proof of his many allegations including those featured in today’s front page T-P story and IMHO he has delivered on Ronald Sholes.
Interest of justice Jim Letten needs to step aside in USA v Perdigao. He should have done it months ago in light of his involvement in the Edwards prosecution and the detailed allegations Mr Peridgao has levied against the conduct of the prosecution. At this point I’m wondering if Letten isn’t budging because he is protecting a dirty secret for his disgraced former boss. New readers can find all our Perdigao posts by typing Perdigao in our search box in the upper right of our main page.
Gorden Russell’s report includes quotes from Mr Sholes himself who now admits the allegations and defends his actions by saying the legal ethics are really bullshit and do not apply in the real world of New Orleans traffic court. Given the elite status of the citizenry (many of whom were Adams and Reese clients) whose tickets were fixed, the other 99.9% that were not well connected who had to suffer the hellhole of NOLA traffic court might just beg to differ. Here are some excerpts from today’s story:
Traffic Court Judge Ronald Sholes regularly intervened outside of his courtroom on behalf of traffic defendants, many of whom had ties to the New Orleans law firm where Sholes practices, records show.
Of 41 documented cases in which Sholes interceded, typically asking a clerk to “look into” a case, 29 were dismissed by either a judge or a prosecutor. Four were found guilty, according to Traffic Court records. Eight other cases are either no longer in the court’s system or are still listed as “open.”
A number of the cases, all concerning tickets written in 1999 and 2000, involved people with close connections to the Adams and Reese law firm, where Sholes has been a partner since 1999. Unlike their counterparts in most local courts, Traffic Court judges may practice law privately.
While none of the cases are particularly serious — most are simple moving violations — the pattern certainly bolsters the notion that Traffic Court is a place where favors are routinely done for the well-connected.
More important, perhaps, several lawyers said that the documents show a pattern of “ex parte” communications between Sholes and Traffic Court defendants. In general, the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from discussing pending cases without both parties present.
In an interview, Sholes said he could appreciate that view — certainly, if he were doing the same thing in murder cases, it would be problematic. But Sholes — a judge for 18 years, the first eight of them in Civil District Court — said applying the same lofty ideals of jurisprudence to traffic cases would be both unrealistic and unhelpful to citizens, who have a hard time gaining access to the prosecutors who have the authority to dismiss their tickets.
“Is it accurate to say a judge should never speak to one side without the other being present? I think yes,” Sholes said. “But to run a traffic court like that, I think most would say that’s not the way we do it. And I don’t think that is what the public would want me to do.”
Monroe Freedman, a professor of law at Hofstra University and a nationally known scholar on legal ethics, reviewed a number of the judges’ communications at the request of The Times-Picayune.
He said Sholes’ interventions were “improper,” even if the cases were petty.
“It’s at a traffic level, but that just means it’s a low-level rot,” Freedman said. “I don’t think it’s healthy at any level. It would be more serious of course if the crimes were more serious, but for those of us who take the administration of justice seriously . . . even this level of corruption — for that’s what it is — is a serious matter.
“The fact is that these communications apparently created the attitude on the part of individuals that because they knew him, they would receive some degree of favored treatment. And that’s just wrong.”