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So, now Sen. John Kennedy is officially opposed to strengthening firearms BACKGROUND CHECKS.

His newest proclamation (which really isn’t new at all) raises the obvious question of whether there is any level to which he will not stoop to kiss the ring of Donald Trump and the rest of the NRA-purchased Republicans who insist that it is never the time to discuss ways to curb the number of MASS SHOOTINGS that have plagued this country for the past 35 years.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Sen. John Kennedy to join fellow Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy in voting for the so-called tax “reform” bill that is so heavily weighted in favor of the very rich but now he has underscored that Gawd-awful CAMPAIGN AD in which he said, “…love is the answer but you oughta own a hand gun, just in case.”

He even repeated the phrase during a Senate committee hearing, saying it was an old saying from back in Louisiana though, to be honest, I don’t ever recall anyone but Kennedy uttering such an inane statement.

So, obviously, while it is never the time to discuss a solution, it’s always the time to ensure that the mentally ill will have unfettered access to weapons.

Kennedy clashed with Bobby Jindal—and later with Gov. John Bel Edwards—over the budget, repeating his mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” That, it turns out, was the most intelligent thing he had to say as State Treasurer. But the fact of the matter was—and is—that it was a combination of the two.

The problem is in the giveaways, as in tax credits, tax exemptions, tax incentives, and all the other breaks given away to industry that promised big jobs in exchange for keeping off the tax rolls but who failed to deliver. That spending problem created a critical revenue problem that was only partially alleviated by a 43 percent increase in college tuition.

Kennedy also proposed an across-the-board cut in state contracts. That was far too simplistic. A better solution would have been—and remains—to take a long, hard look at the multitude of contracts awarded by the sate to determine if they are really necessary.

Just as one example, the various studies of restoration of Louisiana’s coastline, like the bevy of studies awarded by the City of Baton Rouge to study traffic congestion, have brought the state no closer to resolving the problem than before tens of millions of dollars were spent on those studies.

But I digress. Kennedy, in constant search of a TV camera and microphone, has now gone beyond absurdity in opposing more stringent background checks. Does he not remember:

  • Sandy Hook?
  • Columbine?
  • Aurora?
  • Orlando?
  • Las Vegas?
  • San Bernardino?
  • Chattanooga?
  • Charleston?
  • Oakland?
  • Tucson?
  • Blacksburg?

I could go on, but what’s the point? People like Kennedy are imprisoned by their own closed minds and political calculations about how to best play to the emotions of the gun enthusiasts and to how best to go about assuring the continued flow of NRA campaign contributions. The KILLING FIELDS of America are without comparison anywhere else in the civilized world, according to statistics published by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Oops, I forgot. That should be the failing New York Times, according to Donald Trump, on whose coattails Kennedy so shamelessly ran in his senatorial campaign. So, it must be fake news, right?

Well, those figures quoted by the failing New York Times were provided by the FBI, which keeps meticulous records on such things.

Oh, I forgot again. The FBI is no longer credible, according to Grump, who arbitrarily decides who is and who is not trustworthy and who sets such a shining example for the likes of Kennedy, Bill Cassidy and the other Repugnacans in Congress who apparently are unable to make as simple a decision as when to go to the bathroom without a directive from Thumper.

Yes, I know the NRA gun-totin’ flag-waving zealots are going to have me pilloried by sundown but I can live with that and I have this to say to them:

I would rather stand for what is right for all the victims who were so needlessly slaughtered by obviously mentally disturbed people who should never have had access to weapons than to have all the campaign money the NRA dumps into the campaigns of the likes of John Kennedy.

Those are my principles, Mr. Kennedy, what, pray tell, are yours?

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It was suspicious enough when Stewart Cathey was arrested and handcuffed for a six-year-old seat belt violation exactly a month before the 2015 primary election for State Senate. But taken with events that have transpired with Louisiana State Police (LSP) and the agency’s former superintendent since that time, it seems less and less likely to have been mere coincidence.

Incumbent State Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) was term-limited in 2015. Three-term Rep. Jim Fannin, a Jonesboro Democrat-turned-Republican, then serving as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was also term-limited and looking to move to the upper chamber.

Cathey, a Monroe native, a graduate of the University of Louisiana Monroe, and managing partner of the Cathey Group, an information technology management consulting firm in Monroe, also had his eye on the District 35 Senate seat. The district includes all or parts of the parishes of Rapides, Grant, Winn, Ouachita, Lincoln, and Jackson.

A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, the Republican Cathey had received a ticket for a seat belt violation in 2009 but soon after was deployed to Afghanistan where he managed more than $250 million in infrastructure development projects and, he says, he forgot about the ticket.

Fast forward to the 2015 campaign. Fannin, endorsed by Kostelka and a heavy favorite for the Senate, is pressed by the upstart Cathey. They are only a few percentage points apart when Cathey was arrested and HANDCUFFED on a bench warrant issued by Monroe City Judge Tammy D. Lee.

His arrest was on Sept. 24, exactly one month before the primary election. Cathey said he attempted to pay the ticket, if belatedly, but was denied the opportunity. He said he was told he would have to turn himself in, be arrested and bonded out. Quite naturally, considering the timing and all, Cathey quite naturally suspected that mischief was afoot.

“This is the ugly side of politics,” he said. “Career politicians will stop at nothing to get back to the good old boys’ club in Baton Rouge. This is nothing new to Jim Fannin and Bob Kostelka and their team. I’ve seen them do it in the past.”

But Kostelka, who retired as a state district judge before his own election to the District 35 seat back in 2007, was quick with a sincere “Who, me?” denial, saying he had “no control over Monroe City Court or Judge Lee.”

Fannin subsequently defeated Cathey by 6 percentage points to take the election.

Granted, all that has been written here to this point is old news that got plenty of ink at the time. The story might well have ended there had not Cathey gone one step further with something called a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, better known in Louisiana simply as the garden variety public records request.

And that’s where the questions regarding actions by LSP, certain other unknown municipal and/or parish law enforcement agencies, and former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson come in.

On October 12, 2015, just 12 days before the primary election, Cathey submitted a public records request to State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton in which he requested:

  • Any and all emails with regards to the account: stacey.barrett@la.gov from September 28, 2015 through October 10, 2015.
  • Any and all emails, memos, or other writings discussing the findings from a Background Audit performed between September 28, 2015 and October 10, 2015 into the searches of Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s driving record as well as searches into the NCIC system for Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s record.

(LouisianaVoice has copies of Cathey’s request and the LSP response but because some of Cathey’s personal information is included on both documents, it was decided not to display copies of either.)

On Oct. 21, three days before the primary, LSP attorney Adrienne E. Aucoin responded—somewhat.

After recapping his request, Aucoin said any such searches on the Louisiana Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (LLETS) are privileged, “which exempts from the public view” records collected and maintained by the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information (LBCII).

A spokesperson for the LSP Legal Department explained to LouisianaVoice that it was LSP policy not to release information on searches. She implied there was usually a good reason for someone checking to see if they were being investigated. She said releasing such information could alert a suspect to an otherwise confidential ongoing investigation of criminal activity. “We would thank them for the tip, though,” she said.

Aucoin’s letter went on to say, “Attached hereto, please find emails that are responsive to your request. Please note that a section of these emails has been redacted. The redacted information pertains to records maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information.”

(NOTE: The email chain below begins with the most recent communication and reads backward to the earliest. The text of the messages also makes it obvious that Cathey initiated his inquiries about the background checks almost a month before his formal FOIA request.)

 

The email chain started with a message at 9:59 a.m. on Sept. 28 to criminal records analyst Shelley Scott from Capt. Stacey Barrett of LSP Technical Support Services:

“Stewart Cathey, Jr. is running for a Senate seat in north Louisiana. He was arrested on 09/24/15 on a 6-year-old seat belt warrant. It was a highly publicized event. He called because he suspects the S.O. (sheriff’s office) is running his record without cause. Please run an off-line search from 1.1.15 through today.

“I told Mr. Cathey that we would not release any results to him. If we find what may be inappropriate use of LLETS, we would deal with the agency and the officer directly. Let me know what you find.”

Maj. Jason Starnes and LSP Lt. Chris Eskew were also copied on that email.

At 4:06 p.m. that same day, Scott emailed Barrett, Starnes, and Eskew:

“Attached are the requested LLETS off-line results on Stewart. The below table shows the Cliff’s (sic) Notes version.”

What followed was the “section” alluded to by Aucoin as redacted. The redacted portion was a transaction history for a six-month period comprising about three-quarters of a page and containing 20 redacted lines which appeared to represent background searches or requests for same.

At 12:45 p.m. on Sept. 30, Barrett wrote to Scott, Starnes, and Eskew:

“As discussed, we will wait for further direction from the chain of command before taking any action. Please hold on to (sic) all of the documentation you ran for this search.”

At 3:19 p.m., Starnes responded to Barrett:

“Please proceed with following our policy and protocol regarding the LLETS search inquiries and send the letters we discussed.”

Finally, at 3:45 p.m., also on Sept. 30, Barrett emailed Scott and Eskew:

“Please prepare the standard letters seeking justification for the (redacted) transactions. Please keep us posted and let us know if you need assistance or guidance.”

The cryptic nature of the email communications is curious since routine public records requests do not normally attract such attention up and down the chain of command.

The timing of Cathey’s arrest, the reported discipline of an Alexandria municipal police officer for running a background check on Cathey, and the LSP emails and redacted reports, taken together, would seem to indicate there was some legitimacy to Cathey’s suspicions that someone deliberately sought to undermine his election campaign by initiating widespread background checks and even his arrest—complete with handcuffs—for an otherwise minor offense.

To add icing on the proverbial cake, Cathey said on Monday, Oct. 26, just two days after the Oct. 24 election, he was contacted by Monroe City Court and informed the charges against him for the seat belt violation were being dropped. He also said an investigation begun by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was abruptly shut down with no explanation given.

No disrespect to the late Gertrude Stein, but there certainly appears to be a there there.

Edmonson had a reputation during his nine years at the helm of LSP as one who would dole out favors to legislators in efforts to ingratiate himself to lawmakers. A relay by state troopers to deliver football tickets to a legislator in New Orleans for an LSU national championship football game when she accidentally left her tickets in Shreveport is one example of that mindset.

Ordering background checks by LSP and/or requesting checks by other law enforcement agencies could be another example.

When contacted by LouisianaVoice about the possibility of an investigation into whether or not Edmonson had taken such action, Public Information Officer Doug Cain said unless a formal complaint was lodged by Cathey, LSP would not initiate an investigation.

After the OIG investigation was suddenly terminated, Cathey did not follow up with a formal complaint to LSP.

He is currently deployed to Puerto Rico where his unit is working on hurricane relief.

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When Judge Robert James moved to senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on May 31, 2016, State Judge Terry Doughty of the 5th Judicial District Court (Franklin, Richland and West Carroll parishes) made one call.

That call, to U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a fellow member of the First Baptist Church of Rayville, to express his interest in a federal judgeship, proved productive, but not right away. He was interviewed by U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and David Vitter but his nomination was not taken up by the Obama Administration.

But following the elections of Vitter’s successor John Neely Kennedy to the Senate and Donald Trump to the presidency, things changed. Follow up interviews took place, this time with Cassidy and Kennedy, and upon the recommendation of Cassidy and Abraham, Doughty was interviewed by the White House in April 2017 and officially nominated on Aug. 3.

If one follows the connections between Doughty, Abraham, and former 5th JDC Judge James “Jimbo” Stephens (since elected to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal) back far enough, some old familiar names start to pop up.

Names like former State Legislator (both the House and Senate) and now Legislative Director for Gov. John Bel Edwards NOBLE ELLINGTON, Bobby Jindal and Vantage Health Plan.

(Major League Baseball, which once held franchise rights on recycling coaches and managers, has nothing on Louisiana politicians. Edwards, when in the legislature, was a thorn in the side of Jindal but when he became governor, he couldn’t resist reappointing many of Jindal’s foot soldiers—people like like Jimmy LeBlanc, Burl Cain, Mike Edmonson, Butch Browning and Ellington.)

Now Ellington’s son, Noble Ellington, III, whose own home health care BUSINESS failed, now works as Director of Shared Savings for Vantage Healthcare in Monroe. Could politics have played a part in his hiring? We will probably never know, but the pieces were certainly in place.

AFFINITY HEALTHCARE, an affiliate of Vantage Health Plan, Inc. and which shares the same address at 130 DeSiard Street in Monroe, purchased the medical practice of Abraham’s MEDICAL CLINIC, formerly of 261 Hwy. 132 in Mangham (now the address of Affinity Health Group).

So, what’s the big deal about Vantage Healthcare?

Nothing much except back in October 2014, LouisianaVoice did a fairly comprehensive STORY about how the Jindal administration and Sens. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), and Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) conspired to circumvent the state’s bid laws in order to allow Vantage to purchase a state office building in downtown Monroe on the cheap even though there was another serious buyer interested in the property.

That building, the old Virginia Hotel, constructed in 1935, is a six-story, 100,750-square-foot building that cost $1.6 million when built. It underwent extensive renovations in 1969 and again in 1984 and was being used as a state office building when it was sold to Vantage for $881,000, a little more than half its cost when it was built more than eight decades ago. One might have expected the building, if properly maintained, to appreciate in value over the years, not depreciate by 45 percent.

The state could afford to unload the building because it owns another six-story office building containing nearly 250,000-square-feet of floor space a couple of blocks away, at 122 St. John Street in Monroe, but that seems little justification for selling the Virginia at fire sale prices.

But even with 109,000 square-feet of vacant office space available in the building on St. John, where do you think Judge Stephens and fellow Appeal Court Judge Milton Moore chose to locate their offices?

In the Vantage Healthcare building, of course.

NELASOB REPORT

LouisianaVoice has made public records requests to determine the cost to the state of housing the judges in the Vantage building instead of the state-owned building with all that available space but those records have not been forthcoming yet.

Regardless, someone in Baton Rouge needs to explain why the state is paying rent to a private entity for office space in a building which that entity received at bargain basement prices—from the state—as some sort of underhanded political favor—orchestrated by the Jindal administration’s circumvention of the state bid laws, aided and abetted by four North Louisiana legislators.

But the minor issue of where his office is housed doesn’t seem to be the type of thing that would bother Stephens anyway. After all, there is a photo, apparently posted on his Facebook page that shows him holding up the antlers of a deer he shot—at night? One person commented, “Illegal to hunt at night, ain’t it?” to which Stephens replied, “It’s illegal to get caught.”

And when he was running for the appellate court in 2016, there were more than 160 people who signed onto a newspaper ad endorsing his candidacy. Among them was one Donna Remides.

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

In December 2013, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans said Ms. Remides was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment for lying in order to secure loans to hide more than $600,000 in thefts from the federally-funded non-profit Northeast Delta Resource Conservation and Development Council (NDRC&DC).

She was employed as a project coordinator by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to work for the council in Winnsboro. From January 2001 to December 2010, she used the NDRC&DC accounts to pay herself $640,000 without authorization. She wrote herself and her private business checks during the 10-year period and obtained loans in the name of the council to cover the thefts.

Granted, Stephens has no control over who purchases a newspaper advertisement to endorse his candidacy. But that, coupled with the controversy over his refusal to recuse his pal Doughty from a trial involving a LAWSUIT against a bank with some questionable links to Doughty, the flippant remark about illegal night hunting, the office space at Vantage, the same personalities tying both judges to Vantage, Abraham and Ellington…

But then again, maybe that’s what qualifies both judges for their positions in the political climate in which we currently find ourselves.

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When U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy went on record before the Senate Judiciary Committee as supporting the nomination of 5th Judicial District Court Judge Terry Doughty to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, they put themselves, by extension, squarely at odds with the doctrine of separation of church and state.

That doctrine, Alabama’s Judge Roy Moore notwithstanding, is a cornerstone of American democracy but one which Doughty, like Moore, has chosen to ignore when dealing with defendants who come before him in his drug court.

While many of the DECISIONS dealing with the separation of church and state handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court border on the ridiculous, there is one that stands out. In the 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, the court established a three-part test for determining if an action of government violates the First Amendment’s separation of church and state provision:

  • The government action must have a secular purpose.
  • Its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion.
  • There must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.

It’s important to note that in his confirmation hearings, Doughty boasted of the work of his drug court and that if confirmed, he would be interested in developing a drug court PROGRAM at the federal level patterned on the one he established in the 5th JDC, which is comprised of the parishes of Franklin, Richland, and West Carroll.

So, what’s so wrong about the district’s drug court?

Only that Doughty mandates that defendants enter into either Alcoholics Anonymous or CELEBRATE RECOVERY, both of which are faith-based recovery programs.

In September 2007, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was unconstitutional to order a parolee to attend AA or affiliated programs because requiring attendance at a religion-based treatment program violated the First Amendment.

In handing down its RULING, the court said what while it “in no way denigrate(s) the fine work of (AA and Narcotics Anonymous), attendance in their programs may not be coerced by the state.”

While LouisianaVoice takes no position as to the merits of AA or Celebrate Recovery, we do recognize that the Bill of Rights calls for the separation of church and state. By that, it simply means the State shall neither establish a specific religion nor prohibit the practice of such. And the only way to ensure that is for the government to take a hands-off approach to the observance of any religious practice, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, or any other belief.

Doughty doesn’t seem to get that and it is his close association with Celebrate Recovery that gives us pause.

In his questionnaire he completed for submission to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Doughty falls woefully short of any published writings, reports, or policy statements but does include numerous references to his affiliation with Celebrate Recovery. Those references include:

  • August 11, 2011: Guest Speaker, “Inventory, Lesson 10,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville, Louisiana.
  • January 11, 2012: Guest Speaker, Richland Celebrate Recovery Program, Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center, Rayville, Louisiana.
  • September 9, 2012: Speaker, Richland Celebrate Recovery Program, Delhi United Methodist Church, Delhi, Louisiana. “I discussed how the Richland Celebrate Recovery program works with the church.”
  • January 3, 2013: Presenter, “What to Do When You Get Out,” Celebrate Recovery Inside, Richland Parish Detention Center, Rayville, Louisiana.
  • January 27, 2014: Speaker, “Starting a Celebrate Recovery Program,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Olanchito, Honduras.
  • February 14, 2014: Guest Speaker, Celebrate Recovery Graduation, Richland Parish Detention Center, Rayville.
  • June 10, 2014: Guest Speaker, Celebrate Recovery Graduation, Richland Parish Detention Center, Rayville.
  • August 5, 2014: Presenter, “Starting a Celebrate Recovery Program,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Olanchito, Honduras.
  • September 17, 2015: Speaker, Welcome Address, Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • December 3, 2015: Speaker, “Lesson 10—Spiritual Inventory Part I,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • June 27, 2016: Presenter, “Maintaining a Celebrate Recovery Program,” Honduras Celebrate Recovery, Olanchito, Honduras.
  • July 28, 2016: Speaker, “Spiritual Inventory Part I,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • August 14, 2016, Presenter, Report on Celebrate Recovery Honduras Mission Trip, Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • August 28, 2016: Presenter, Report on Celebrate Recovery Honduras Mission, Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • March 16, 2017: Speaker, “Lesson 10—Spiritual Inventory Part I,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville, Louisiana. I discussed the benefits of making a spiritual inventory.

So, exactly what is Doughty’s affiliation with Celebrate Recovery? Why Honduras? And who paid for his trips to that country? Why is there nothing in his questionnaire responses to indicate that he ever spoke at an AA event? There are, after all, AA MEETINGS in all three parishes in the 5th JDC.

There was no immediate information available as to who paid for his three trips to Honduras in 2014 and 2016 to speak on behalf of Celebrate Recovery but if Celebrate Recovery paid for his trip and/or his lodging and meals, it could present a potential ETHICS violation for Doughty.

Under General Prohibitions as set out in Louisiana R.S. 42:1111-1121, the Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits the “receipt of a thing of economic value by a public servant for services rendered to or for the following:

  • Persons who have or are seeking to obtain a contractual or other business or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency;
  • Persons who are regulated by the public employee’s agency;
  • Persons who have substantial economic interests which may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the public employee’s official duties.

Celebrate Recovery would obviously have a “substantial economic interest” in the performance of Doughty’s official duties as a judge mandating that defendants in his court enter into programs offered by Celebrate Recovery.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham may have been a bit premature in pushing for Doughty’s nomination and Sens. Cassidy and Kennedy might have been wise to vet the judge a little better before testifying on his behalf before the Judiciary Committee. Kennedy was dogged in his questioning of Matthew Spencer Peterson, whose nomination was subsequently withdrawn. Peterson, of course, is not from Louisiana, so Kennedy could afford to pepper Peterson with embarrassing questions without any risks to his political future.

But Kennedy might have served his Louisiana constituents better if he had been a little more thorough in his examination of Doughty’s qualifications.

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U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy had his 15 minutes late last week with his pointed questioning of federal court nominee Matthew Spencer Peterson. Well, actually, it was only five minutes because that’s how long senators are given to pose their questions to nominees during the confirmation process.

Be that as it may, Kennedy may yet end up with egg on his face over his support of a state court judge for his nomination to seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and 5th District U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham may also be a little red-faced before this is finished.

By the time you read this, 5th Judicial District Court Judge Terry Doughty may already be confirmed for a lifetime position on the federal bench. That’s lifetime, as in once done, he’ll be there like he was affixed with Gorilla Glue.

And, to put it as gently as possible, Doughty may be almost is unqualified for such an important post (did I mention it was a lifetime position?) as the esteemed Federal Elections Commission Chairman Peterson, who, it turned out, fell on his face in answering the most basic of legal questions from Kennedy and subsequently was withdrawn for consideration by the Trump administration.

There are a multitude of reasons why Doughty should never have been nominated. Some of those reasons have to do with his legal skills, which are mediocre at best. Other factors involve some of his associates and some of the reason even goes back to a sweetheart deal the Jindal administration cooked up on behalf of a state vendor which in turn benefited the son of a former state legislator who just happened to be a Jindal supporter.

Doughty obtained his bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech in Ruston and his J.D. from LSU Law School. He has served as judge of the 5th JDC, which includes the parishes of Franklin, Richland, and West Carroll, since 2009. Prior to that, he practiced at the Rayville firm of Cotton, Bolton, Hoychick & Doughty.

Louisiana’s Western District Court, to which he has been nominated, includes courtrooms in Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Monroe and Shreveport.

Abraham lobbied for Doughty but that support may have been rooted in litigation scheduled before Doughty in which a bank where Abraham’s son-in-law serves as a member of the bank’s board is being sued over the alleged breach of a crop loan agreement.

Cassidy and Kennedy AGREED with the nomination. Cassidy called Doughty “eminently qualified” in addressing members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in November. He said Doughty “will serve the United States District Court well. I recommend Judge Doughty to this committee without reservation.”

Kennedy said Doughty is “known in my state as a person with great intellect, good judgment, and fair. I recommend him unconditionally and unequivocally.”

That kind of unrestrained effusion has a way of coming back to bite you in the posterior.

So, let’s take a closer look at that lawsuit and Doughty’s “good judgment.”

In the matter of KT Farms of Waterproof filed suit against Citizens Progressive Bank of Columbia, claiming that the bank breached a crop loan agreement involving about $5 million. Also participating in the loan were Progressive’s parent company, Caldwell Bank & Trust and Commercial Capital Bank of Delhi.

KT Farms attorney Sedric Banks attempted to recuse Doughty as he had successfully done in another case in Richland Parish on the basis of Doughty’s business and personal relationships with a defendant in that case as well as with the defendant’s wife.

Banks also pointed out that Abraham’s son-in-law, Dustin Morris, is a member of the Citizens Progressive board and Abraham, who was pushing Doughty for the judgeship, is a minority shareholder in Commercial Capital Bank’s parent company. Moreover, through his recent marriage, Banks said, Doughty also has a family connection to Morris.

In an added wrinkle, Banks noted that the focus of the KT Farms lawsuit shifted in February when Doughty revealed his relationship with Delhi tax preparer David Stephens and his wife Michelle. David Stephens, it turns out, works for Delhi CPA Larry Pickett who just happens to be chairman of the Commercial Capital Bank board of directors.

The motion to recuse Doughty was heard by Doughty’s fellow 5th JDC Judge Stephens who signed the written reasons for denying Banks’ request. Those written reasons were penned by….Doughty.

Stephens, in his May 24 denial, attempted a little courtroom humor, making references to actor Kevin Bacon and the TV show Star Trek.

“Frankly, counsel’s connection sounds more like that old parlor game, ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” Stephens said, perhaps pausing for the drummer’s rim shot. “Allegedly, Terry A. Doughty married Jan Toms (allegedly?), who was formerly married to Johnny Morris, now deceased. Johnny Morris had a cousin on his father’s side, namely Todd Morris. Todd had a son named Dustin Morris, a new board member of defendant Citizens Progressive Bank, who married Ashley Abraham, daughter of Ralph and Diane Abraham. Ralph and Diane bought stock on Commercial Capital Bank, a defendant in this lawsuit.

“And there you have it.  Six Degress of Terry Doughty.

“…As First Officer Spock would say, ‘It is totally illogical.’”

Stephens’ rapier wit notwithstanding, the Louisiana Supreme Court in November reversed Stephens—and Doughty’s carefully written reasons for judgment—and REMOVED the case from the 5th JDC and appointed retired judge Anne Lennan Simon of New Iberia ad hoc judge to preside over the KT lawsuit.

Doughty and Stephens naturally retaliated by filing complaints against Banks with the Office of Disciplinary Council, requesting that Banks be suspended from the practice of law. So much for impartial judicial discretion. It says a little about class, too.

The Supreme Court, in making the Simon appointment, admonished both sides, but pointedly said that judges “should act with restraint and decorum in order to avoid creating an appearance of impropriety.”

The Second Circuit Court of Appeal had upheld Stephens, who was elected to that same Second Circuit in October. He defeated 4th JDC Judge Sharon Marchman, who in May 2016, filed a LAWSUIT against her fellow judges over what Marchman termed their alleged covering for a court clerk whose job attendance was brought into question by Marchman.

And when Stephens was inaugurated last month, who do you think administered the oath of office to him? None other than his old pal, Terry Doughty, that’s who. You have to admit, in these small rural parishes, it seems you bump into close associates—and adversaries—every time you turn around.

Oh, hell, you don’t have to travel to the remote parts of the state to encounter old friends who are more than happy to do you a favor—provided it also benefits them in the process. The tentacles of Baton Rouge politics extend throughout the state, touching virtually everyone’s life.

There is, it seems, something to that six degrees of separation theory, after all.

LouisianaVoice will have more about the common thread that creates the six degrees of Louisiana politics and how the same old familiar names keep popping up. And sometimes, when you peek through that keyhole, you can see how these backroom deals work to the distinct advantage of the privileged few.

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