Legal Ethics

Top La. Court Censures Jurist for Contacting Another Judge to Help Niece Get Protective Order

The Louisiana Supreme Court has censured a state-court judge for using the power and prestige of his office to help a niece get a protective order, from another judge, against alleged abuse by the niece’s estranged husband, reports the Shreveport Times.

Although DeSoto District Judge Robert Burgess said he acted as an uncle, rather than as a judge, in contacting Ouachita officials for information and assistance in getting the protective order, “we do not believe a judge can ‘step out’ of his judicial function so easily,” the court said.

While the Ouachita Parish judge testified he was not influenced by Burgess’ judicial status, “two judges meeting behind closed doors to discuss a case involving one of the judge’s relatives creates an obvious appearance of impropriety.”

The court said Burgess’ conduct was an isolated occurrence and noted that he had cooperated, the newspaper reports. A complaint by the niece’s estranged husband brought the matter to the attention of attorney disciplinary personnel.

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