Local Judges Don’t Junket

The judges of the Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District haven’t participated in the Destin, FL annual junkets for the past two years, a review of their expenses has revealed.

Most of the office’s expense money is spent on local travel, the document show. One judge is assigned to Union Parish, and two to Lincoln. Periodically they rotate and hear cases in the other parish.

See here the documents.

For 2014, the total expenses of the judges and their staff was just over $18 thousand. Seminars for the office took up about $2 thousand, and local travel about $12 thousand. Other expenses include jury trial, and other travel and lodging.

So far in 2015, the total is about $10 thousand.

Notable in this news story is the complete cooperation of the district’s Chief Judge, Jay McCallum. He told us when we requested the records that ANY AND ALL records would be made available, including supporting receipts and tickets for travel and seminars, if we needed them.

Some History

In early June each year since the late 80s, the Louisiana State Bar Association has held its annual meeting at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, just east of Destin, FL. Coincident with the convention is a “summer school,” where attorneys can earn continuing legal education credits.

After complaints about excessive spending by junketeers, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor looked into the matter. Among the findings:

Our review of travel expenses for the period January 2009 to December 2011 revealed that the Court (1) lacked adequate documentation to support all amounts expended for travel as required by the Supreme Court’s travel policy and (2) allowed judges to pay excessive amounts for lodging during the Summer School for Judges and the Annual Meeting of the State Bar Association.

We noted that four judges and two commissioners chose to stay in two or three bedroom condominiums or hotel suites as opposed to a standard (one bedroom) hotel room which were available at the conferences. As a result, these officials incurred and Court funds were used to pay lodging Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans expenses totaling approximately $8,298 (over a three-year period) above the standard one bedroom rate offered at the conferences.

See here the complete report.

Last year, The (New Orleans) Times Picayune wrote several news accounts of the continuing junkets.

Some New Orleans judges billed public for multi-room condos at Florida resort’s event
New Orleans public paid $75,000 for judges’ trips to beach resorts, mountain lodge, more
No need for New Orleans criminal court judges to travel to resorts for continuing education: Editorial

The Louisiana Supreme Court has issued rules concerning travel:

Travel Expenses of Judges for Meetings
Lodging Reimbursement – 2015 LSBA/Louisiana Judicial College Joint Summer School

Sometime in the early 90s, the “Nuts & Bolts Fun Judicial Seminar” came into being, apparently designed as a junket for other members of the courthouse crowd who couldn’t attend the lawyer’s annual bash.

Earlier this year, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate had this account:

April 10, 2015 – Iberville clerk’s office spent more than $30,000 in public money on travel, gas. Clerk J. Gerald “Bubbie” Dupont: ‘If I go to Florida, I’m bringing my family’

The Iberville Parish Clerk of Court’s Office has spent more than $30,000 in public funds on out-of-town conference trips and fuel for vehicles over the past three years — more than twice what was spent by its similarly sized counterparts in Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes, records show.

The charges include thousands spent on annual trips to the Florida Panhandle for conferences, where the office’s two top officials acknowledge bringing family members to vacation in the high-end resort condominiums they rented for their stays.

“If I go to Florida, I’m bringing my family,” Iberville Clerk J. Gerald “Bubbie” Dupont said.

He has reimbursed his office for some of the trip costs. Records show he reimbursed $4,042 of the $9,018 total spent on condo rentals for Florida trips in 2013 and 2014. However, there’s no record of a reimbursement for a 2012 trip to Florida that cost $4,509.

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2 Responses to “Local Judges Don’t Junket”

  1. Bsting Says:

    excellent report

  2. oldman Says:

    It’s nice to see some people saving the taxpayer’s money.

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