New Juvenile Court judge faces scrutiny over her residency

Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King, shortly after her swearing-in ceremony
Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King, shortly after her swearing-in ceremony

A newly elected Juvenile Court Judge in New Orleans says she's not aware of any investigation underway into where she lives.

The Louisiana Attorney General's office is looking into residency questions surrounding Yolanda King. King was sworn in to office on June 24 in a ceremony at Dillard University.

For King, an attorney, the fifth time was the charm and she was full of emotion.

"I am just so proud today," she said with tears in her eyes.

On May 4, after running for four previous judgeships, she beat Doug Hammel in a close runoff, capping off a race that turned ugly towards the end. Late in the campaign, questions surfaced about whether King was even qualified to run in Orleans Parish.

Local private investigator John Carroll gets paid to research candidates during elections. "Just in case, because elections do get nasty sometimes," said Carroll.

He first started looking into King's residency shortly after she jumped into the race. When King filled out her qualifying form, she listed her domicile address - where she lives - as 5336 Stillwater Drive in New Orleans East. But she listed a P.O. Box as a mailing address.

Carroll says he conducted a search of real estate records.

"That house on Stillwater Drive is registered to a Jimmie Bobb. Her name is not even attached to that residence," he said.

According to the Orleans Assessor's Office, the home on Stillwater Drive is owned by Jimmie Bobb and Grace King, the judge's sister, both seen on stage with her at her swearing-in.

But Carroll's investigation led him outside New Orleans to Chancer Lane in Slidell, where Judge King bought a home in April of 2006. She received Road Home money for the property in 2007 and has claimed a homestead exemption every year since then.

Carroll said neighbors even told him what time she and her twin sister leave for work in the morning, so he set up surveillance several mornings last month, just after daybreak.

Carroll said, "The neighbors were correct, the garage door opened, Yolanda and her sister exited the residence. Yolanda parks her vehicle inside the garage."

One neighbor who didn't want to be identified says she was shocked to learn King was a judge in New Orleans.

"When they told me she got elected in Orleans Parish, I was just a little confused, wondering why it wasn't St. Tammany Parish," she said.

The woman says, until very recently, King has been her neighbor on Chancer Lane. "Since I moved here in 2009, she was here. My husband told me yesterday she may not have been here when he bought the house in 2006, but it's been about six or seven years."

When asked if she would classify King as living on Chancer Lane, the neighbor told FOX 8 she would.

St. Tammany tax assessor records show, between the primary and runoff for Juvenile Court judge, King filed a request to have her homestead exemption in St. Tammany removed for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 tax years. The paperwork says, per Mrs. King, she lives in Orleans Parish.

She kept the homestead exemption in place for 2007 through 2010, even though she qualified to run for Orleans Civil District Court Judge in 2008. On the qualifying form, she listed Stillwater Drive in New Orleans as her domicile address that year, too.

FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says the law is simple - a candidate has to live where they run for office. For a Juvenile Court judge seat, a candidate must live in Orleans Parish for at least one year prior to the election.

Raspanti says authorities will look at a number of factors in the investigation.

"There are certain indices of domicile," said Raspanti. "Do you claim a homestead exemption, do you vote there, do you sleep there, do you pay for electricity there?"

Carroll says his work on the case is finished. "I took all of my findings to the Attorney General's office, met with the investigators and was informed they're taking it from there," said Carroll.

The Attorney General's office confirms the case was forwarded to them by the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office, although Yolanda King told FOX 8 she is not aware of any investigation. She referred all questions to her attorney, Clarence Roby, who is out of town.

If the allegations prove to be true, King could be disciplined or removed from the bench.

Raspanti says it's too soon to speculate. He says any possible consequences for the newly elected judge will depend on the outcome of the Attorney General probe.