Lawsuit brought by FOX 8, Times-Picayune delayed - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Lawsuit brought by FOX 8, Times-Picayune over judge's records delayed

There is a delay in an effort by FOX 8 News and the Times-Picayune to learn more about insurance policies purchased by Orleans Criminal Court judges with public money.

FOX 8 and the newspaper are suing Criminal Court to learn more about those purchases, the subject of a scathing report by the legislative auditor.  The judges paid back $72,000 to the Judicial Expense Fund after that report, but both news organizations want to review the matter in detail.

"We want to know what policies were purchased, who benefited, and then after the legislative auditor told the court you can't do that and when the policies were cashed in, what money did you get back," said FOX 8 attorney Lori Mince.

According to Mince, Civil District Judge Ethel Simms Julien entered an order on Feb. 21 directing the judges to hand over their records of those payments by Friday, or explain their refusal to do so.  But that order was never served to the judges.

Mince said, "We delivered that order to the lawyer who represents the court, and he was fully aware, but the law requires the sheriff to serve him."

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office failed to serve the court and its attorney a notice of that order.

Judicial Administrator Rob Kazik told FOX 8 he was fully prepared to turn over documents, but didn't since he never received official notice from the Sheriff's Office, just blocks away.

Mince said, "Seeing that the civil sheriff is here on Loyola and the judicial administrator is at Tulane and Broad, it's unusual that they have not been served."

FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti said three days for service is not unusual.

"The failure of the court to turn over documents isn't surprising," Raspanti said.  "I don't think anyone should read too much into a lack of service here."

Complicating matters, Rob Kazik says the judges are now in the process of replacing Normand Pizza, the original attorney in this case.

Though three days may or may not be too soon to expect all parties in a legal matter to be notified properly, there are ways to get legal notification done much faster.  Raspanti said, "There are things called 'instanter subpoenas' in this building, where lives are at stake.  This is about freedom of information."

All sides will return to court on March 15, and the plaintiffs are hoping that this time, proper notification will be given to all parties,to turn over the requested documents.

Though our request for documents pertains to a $72,000 reimbursement, the legislative auditor says that the judges spent a total of $600,000 on supplemental policies, including life insurance.  

Orleans District Attorney  Leon Cannizzaro recused himself from the case, since he's a former judge, and turned it over to the state attorney general for investigation.  Friday afternoon, AG spokesman Steven Hartmann told FOX 8 the office is now reviewing the full legislative audit.

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