There is a Broussard in the woodpile: The politics of drunk driving and the Jefferson Parish criminal justice system

It was in the fall of 2006 that I attended my second funeral for a person killed in an accident involving a drunk driver but this time it was extra tough as the victim was a 5 year old girl that was killed on US Highway 98 in Marion County when a drunk driver rammed into the back of the SUV driven by her daddy. The force of the impact caused the SUV to flip several times after it went into the median. Momma was also in the vehicle and her legs were crushed. At the time the surgeons did not know if one of her legs could be saved. She couldn’t come to her baby’s funeral due to those injuries. As I approached the family and the casket I was worried as I didn’t know what words of comfort I would offer to the family. All I could do was shake my head when I got to the front of the line as I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words. “The funeral home did a wonderful job for my baby” her dad remarked to me as we gazed at her in the casket. Indeed they had as half her face had been crushed in the accident. To this day I don’t think he has recovered from that loss.

Jim Brown rekindled those memories for me with his recently published column that took Louisiana’s courts and DAs to task for not enforcing the existing DUI laws. In response to that column we were pleased to have the Avoyelles Parish DA stop in with us begging to differ with the premise of Jim’s column but we also noted that Jim stuck to his guns in his reply. Curious as to the real cause of the problem I sent out some email inquiries to several of the Louisiana based lawyers that we count as regular Slabbed readers and that input, along with my remembrance of a fairly recent story involving a repeat DUI offender in Jefferson Parish resulted in this post where we’ll explore the politics of the DUI as it exists in Jefferson Parish.

Let’s begin by backing up to August of last year and the case of Craig Codina, a serial drunk driver who finally killed someone in his fourth alcohol fueled accident as Paula Devlin reported for the Times Picayune:

When State Police handcuffed Craig Codina last weekend for plowing his truck into the back of a car on Airline Drive, sending the other driver to the hospital and fatally injuring a passenger, it marked his fourth drunken-driving arrest in just eight years.

In fact, the 25-year-old Destrehan man is scheduled to appear in court this week for trial in the third case, a frighteningly similar crash in which he is accused of smashing into the back of a teenager’s car on Causeway Boulevard in October.

Yet in last weekend’s fatal collision, Codina was booked only with second-offense DWI, and State Police say his license was not under suspension.

Codina hasn’t been the beneficiary of any special treatment. He has been prosecuted, convicted and punished like most other DWI defendants in Louisiana. Yet he was still driving on a valid license last weekend because of delays in the judicial system and because of the way state law is written.

And that doesn’t sit right with Lisa Cannon, the mother of the victim in Codina’s third DWI case, nor with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“I don’t understand why they keep letting these repeat offenders out, ” Cannon said. “Obviously, there’s a problem after the second time. Now it’s his fourth, and he’s finally managed to kill somebody. It’s a shame.”

Ms Devlin managed to speak with several official sources in an attempt to find out how a serial offender could slip through the system. However the one person not quoted for this tragic story was the lady in charge of prosecuting DUIs in Jefferson Parish in former Parish President Aaron Broussard’s daughter in law Norma, a lawyer known for being long on ability to secure positions requiring much legal experience while being short on actual trial experience as one of our readers remarked after running searches on West Law and PACER for us:

What’s really astounding is that as a lawyer, she had only 2 published opinions. Assistant DA’s generally have their names on hundreds of opinions because they handle such a large volume of cases and so many criminal appeals are lodged.

As a tax lawyer or real estate lawyer, you would not expect many published opinions. But if a lawyer does any kind of civil or criminal litigation, you can expect to accumulate several published opinions over years of practice. It seems she’s managed to do virtually nothing as a lawyer.

Actually Norma’s name turned up in 3 cases, 2 as a lawyer and one as an agent of process and it is with that last case that we will delve a bit deeper as it reveals some connections to the Chehardy law firm. The text is from the West Law document on the case Firestone Financial v Team Vending:

Plaintiff Firestone Financial, Corp. (“Firestone”) filed this suit on February 13, 2004. One week later, plaintiff’s counsel mailed a stamped copy of the Complaint and personal service waiver forms by certified mail to the registered agent for service of process for defendant Team Vending, Inc., Norma B. Broussard. Thereafter, on March 8, 2004, Team Vending’s registered agent listing was changed to identify defendant Paradela as its agent for service of process. On March 19, 2004, plaintiff sent waiver forms and stamped copies of the Complaint to Paradela.

The first thing I’ll noted was it seemed strange someone working at the DA’s office would serve as the registered agent of a private company but a reader alerted me to the fact that before Norma went to work for Paul Connick she was an associate at the Chehardy law firm. In fact they must like Norma a good bit at Chehardy as they still have her web page up that lists her as an associate on their website. Known for only hiring experienced lawyers with years of experience and a readymade book of business, Norma managed to score a position at Chehardy Sherman with little to no experience. That makes sense as the firm has long standing ties to Norma’s father in law, disgraced former Parish president Aaron Broussard and they most likely hired her as a favor to him.

Norma had bigger plans though and once Aaron Broussard mended fences with Paul Connick after the 1996 election (Broussard supported Jack Capella) the entire Parish Government including Connicks office morphed into a place where nepotism for the Broussards and their extended political family became the norm, with experience and qualifications taking a back seat. Norma for her part attempted to parley her position with DA Connick’s office into a Judgeship and it is there we stop next as the campaign ads tell the story.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STeXegRNZhU]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsiGz1tX8Kg]

I laughed at the first commercial because little did Ms Miller know at the time the true extent of the damage done the Parish by Aaron Broussrad and his ilk. Norma Broussard lost the election.

So how does a 4 time DUI loser manage to prowl the streets of Jefferson Parish driving drunk until he killed someone? I think we’re all learning some simple, hard and ugly truths about the politics of DUI’s in Louisiana.

Several readers contributed to this post with a special hat tip to Jim Brown for kick starting the conversation.

sop

14 thoughts on “There is a Broussard in the woodpile: The politics of drunk driving and the Jefferson Parish criminal justice system”

  1. It isn’t just the Mom’s of MADD pissed about this. Drink driving is a sickness who’s sad and painful days must stop. I hope everyone going to the game remembers this.

  2. Nepotism? Supposedly the Burkes and Connicks are cousins. And supposedly one of the Burkes (the father?) ran the same insurance scam in Orleans Parish (selling insurance and splitting commissions at Charity and New Orleans city agencies) with Harry Connick for years before moving the operation to JP.

    Also Norma’s husband Troy Broussard supposedly gets JP classified ad fees for his newspaper The Kenner Star. That gotten written into the law at some point. The paper’s address is the same as at Broussard’s firm.

    Someone should really look at these things.

  3. We do know Connick threw Burke under the bus pronto when a bit of sunshine was shined on Mr Burke’s business dealings with Whitmer and company. My sources also tell us Mr Connick has generally put unqualified folks in the position Norma Broussard currently holds.

    Thanks for the comment Mr Telemachus. Jefferson Parish is seemingly a bottomless can of worms. We’ll do our best to check out your tips.

    sop

  4. We’re getting a good bit of traffic on this post today so I’d like to welcome our new readers. If you like this post another one of our recent missives that I think is worth looking at can be found here.

    sop

  5. I do not know these people personally and I cannot stand Aaron Broussard, even before the latest scandal, but

    You cannot tell the effectiveness of an AssistanDistrict Attorney by the number of reported cases that their name is listed. Many criminal cases that are appealed have written opinions but the Court of Appeal does not report them. Additionally, appeals from Parish Court, where Ms Broussard is a supervisor, and where much of her prosecuting experience was garnered, are heard first by the 24th Judicial District Court, which does not report appeal decisions. Additionally, most of the large District Attorneys Offices and even some of the smaller ones have specialized attorneys who handle the appeals. New Orleans, Jefferson, Baton Rouge and Shreport are among them. So it is not unusual not to find a particular District Attorney’s name in a small number of reported cases.

    Additionally, you have not cited one instance where a DUI case was mishandled much less purposely swept under the rug for political reasons.

    So until you can point to some cases where politics has affected the outcome, don’t accuse people of things simply because they married into a family. Aaron Broussard deserves to get his. He allowed Whitmer to operate his insurance business, he allowed his wife to hold a parish job that paid more than it should have, he allowed the Parish Attorney to do outside work that created conflicts, he actually did legal work that put himself in a conflicting position. But until you have some proof about others including Broussard’s family, keep quiet about them.

  6. Oh, I left out, the only responsibility that an agent for service of process has is to notify the entity for which theyact (often a corporation) that they have been sued. Many times it is an attorney but often it is not the attorney who will represent the entity. So the fact that she is agent for some entity proves nothing. Also, if you check around you will find that the relatives of influential people, whether politicians or successful busniess people are hired by prestigious law firms. This is done because, even though the hiree might be young, the hiree will have many contacts in the business world and that is where law firms make their money.

  7. Actually I did cite a case Mr Lawyer, that of Craig Codina. I also did not say or imply DUI’s were being swept under the rug for political reasons. I did imply it was due to ineptitude and DA Connick putting people in positions for which they were not qualified.

    As far as case cites you bet your sweet bippy the number of times a lawyer shows up in the offical record is an excellent indicator of experience and it is clear Norma Broussard had none coming into the job and has done nothing since.

    Are you saying Connick would have hired her if her daddy in law wasn’t Aaron Broussard?

    When you hire for blood or political patronage by definition qualifications do not matter. And when law enforcement does it sometimes causes innocent blood to be spilled.

    As to being agent of process it proves exactly what I said it did, that she had a connection to the Chehardy Sherman law firm. And when I dug deeper I found Chehardy Sherman either broke, ditched or lowered their hiring standards when they brought her on.

    As to your observation about law firms hiring the children of the politically connected I agree wholeheartedly as I previoulsy pointed out that Tim Coulon’s boy was hired on at Adams and Reese in their lobbying arm. While I accept it as reality I do not accept it as good public policy. Good ol boy networks never serve the interest of the public. And in the case of Adams and Reese having the son of a man fixing to be indicted for corruption on board can bite you in the ass.

    In case you haven’t figured it out Mr Lawyer the public is tired of all of this self serving shit house double dealing.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment with us.

    sop

  8. O.K. Norma, and others heavy hitters in the JPDA. As they say, catchback is a mother, and many out here know what really happens inside the tent. It serves you right, finally the camel has gotten his head under your tent, in this the final sand storm.

  9. O.K. Norma, and other heavy hitters in the JPDA. As they say, catchback is a mother, and many out here know what really happens inside the tent. It serves you right, finally the camel has gotten his head under your tent, in this, the final sand storm.

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