Two Baton Rouge Area Judges Suspended

On June 29, 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended two Baton Rouge area judges on recommendation of the Louisiana Judiciary Commission.

First, the court suspended Judge J. Robin Free without pay for a period of one year. According to the court, Judge Free:

Interrupted a private meeting between the family members of the victims and members of the District Attorney’s Office following a hearing in a criminal case before him, and made an inappropriate comment; abused his contempt authority and failed to follow the proper procedures for the punishment of contempt in two cases; and made inappropriate comments in seven criminal cases and exhibited a lack of proper decorum, demeanor, and temperament.

Two justices dissented, and stated that they would have imposed a lesser sanction.

Second, the court suspended Judge James J. Best without pay for a period of fifteen days. The court held that Judge Best mishandled a probation hearing by proceeding in the absence of the Attorney General’s office and by making improper personal observations about a probationer with whom he was personally acquainted. Said the court:

This mishandling–especially in the context of Judge Best’s acquaintance with [the probationer]–not only created an appearance of bias or prejudice in violation of Canon 3A(4), but also created an appearance of impropriety and undermined confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary in violation of Canon 2A.

Two justices dissented, and stated that they would have imposed a greater sanction.

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