The Times Picayune endorsed Don Klotz for the 24th Judicial District Court position sought by Jefferson Parish insider Debbio Villio.
Mr. Klotz is a career military man, having served six years in the U.S. Air Force, and continues to serve in the Army Reserves. He holds a juris doctorate from the Loyola University School of Law. While he is currently an attorney in private practice, most of his experience has been gleaned in the military courts, where he served as a prosecutor and as defense counsel. The winner of this special election will fill a vacancy created last fall when the state Supreme Court removed Joan Benge from office for making a ruling in a civil case on issues other than the evidence. The 24th Judicial District is still recovering from the federal Operation Wrinkled Robe investigation that sent two judges to federal prison. Authorities said that Ms. Benge’s misconduct was uncovered during that probe. That’s why it is imperative that the division’s newest jurist be beyond reproach. We believe that Mr. Klotz is the best candidate for this job.
Although speaking of Jefferson Parish in general, TP columnist James Gill made the point in Where entanglements are status quo: ‘It is only natural, in the sleazy network of Jefferson Parish officialdom, that seemingly unrelated scandals should turn out to overlap.”
The “unrelated scandals” that have “turn[ed] out to overlap” cited by Gill was “the forced resignation of Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson and the impeachment of federal judge Tom Porteous”. While true, “Interim Parish President Steve Theriot removed Wilkinson as one of the leading lights of the freewheeling Aaron Broussard administration, which is now under investigation by a federal grand jury”, Gill seems to give Theriot a free pass.
Porteous, meanwhile, is evidently determined to hang onto to his judicial salary until his public humiliation is complete. Nobody has any doubt that the U.S. Senate will vote to convict, after a unanimous House impeached him, but Porteous shows no inclination to spare himself, and Louisiana, further embarrassment by resigning.
His downfall followed a ruling he made in 2000, which defied the law and the facts to hand his pals a fat fee in a dispute over ownership of a Kenner hospital. Even his detractors say Porteous is plenty smart, but he sure wasn’t on this occasion. It should have been obvious that the ruling would arouse strong suspicions and never withstand appeal.
Perhaps Porteous sensed he was digging his own grave, for he waited three years before issuing his decision.
Wilkinson got involved in the case after one of the parties, Lifemark, became alarmed to discover that, a few weeks before the trial was due to begin, the other, Liljeberg Enterprises, had augmented its legal team with two of Porteous’ closest friends, his former law partner, Jake Amato, and Leonard Levenson.
Porteous refused to recuse himself, on grounds that it made no never mind that his pals would be appearing before him. He omitted to mention that Amato, his law partner, Robert Creely, and Levenson had given him oodles of cash in the frequent financial crises occasioned by his fondness for gambling and strong drink.
Even without knowing about the money, Lifemark regarded the arrangement as highly improper. Naturally, therefore, Lifemark decided to adopt a similar tack and resolved to sign up a Porteous crony of its own.
It was easy enough, as Lifemark attorney Joseph Mole explained at a congressional hearing. Mole’s former law partner, Jay Wilkinson, was now a federal magistrate and had, indeed, handled pre-trial proceedings in this case. Wilkinson brother Tom would be sure to know who was in tight with the judge.
Judge Wilkinson has been one of the few bright lights in Katrina litigation and the integrity shown in those decisions I’ve read suggests he is most unlike his brother.
…Tom Wilkinson, though his job as parish attorney was billed as full-time, was not too busy to help out. After all, his official duties had not prevented him from running a private law practice. And Wilkinson never seems to have been deterred by ethical considerations.
Wilkinson put Lifemark onto Don Gardner, who, as a divorce lawyer, could be of no help at trial beyond presenting a friendly face the judge would recognize. But Gardner was a natural choice as a courtroom counterweight, because Porteous had mooched a bunch of cash from him too.
Follow the links to read the full list of Times Picayune endorsements and the rest of Gill’s interesting column.