A state lawmaker from New Orleans adds his voice to calls for a North Shore attorney to be barred from doing business with local and state government.
“He says these absolutely reprehensible things in 2014,” says Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans). “I mean, if it were you or I, we said something like that on our job, we would be fired.”
Badon is trying to make sure North Shore attorney Chuck Hughes faces some repercussion from comments about the City of New Orleans and many of its residents.
Hughes made the comments to his client, John Hoogacker. Hoogacker got into an accident in Orleans Parish - a truck driver sent his car into the lake. Hoogacker sued.
But instead of filing the case in New Orleans, where the accident took place, Hughes filed it in St. Tammany Parish. Hoogacker wanted to know why, and he recorded the conversation.
“It's a decision I made early on to file it in St. Tammany instead of Orleans because, guess what?” Hughes said. “New Orleans is n******. You're white. You go down there, they say f*** you. That's why. That's what it was, to put it bluntly, ok? I mean, it's Orleans Parish. It's corrupt, it's left-handed, it's black-oriented and, you know, we the white people coming down there with a b******* story.”
Badon wants to make sure the State of Louisiana never does work with Hughes again. He's asked the state to ban his firm.
“Giving him a term that he can understand - put him on the black list,” Badon says. “Don't work with him anymore, don't work with his firm, make sure that his firm understands that that kind of conduct is not going to be tolerated.”
Hughes' firm makes about $600,000 a year from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office. But Sheriff Jack Strain says Hughes won't face any consequences - he'll be keeping his job with the office.
"How could that be?" asks Badon. "How can you allow that kind of behavior to continue? I mean, you're virtually saying, 'I'm ok with it.' If you don't do anything to punish this guy, punish this firm, then you're ok with it."
Meantime, a St. Tammany sheriff's employee is under scrutiny for his involvement in the case of John Hoogacker. Brian Trainor, who's on leave from the Sheriff's Office as he runs for the 22nd Judicial District Attorney's office, also works as an attorney. Records show Trainor made $12,258.35 working on the Hoogacker case.
Hoogacker didn't meet him though until the day his case was settled. "Not one document, not one email or anything from Brian Trainor," told us in an interview earlier this year. "Like I said, I didn't even meet him until the day of mediation."
Hoogacker filed a bar complaint against Trainor. Following that complaint, Trainor hired attorney Dane Ciolino.
"The file, however, shows that he made at least one court appearance," Ciolino tells us. "He worked personally with two accident reconstruction experts. He did… the evaluation of Hoogacker's case and generally consulted with the other lawyers working on the case. So by any measure, what Mr. Trainor did is ethically adequate to share in the fee."
"I have two huge case files, or two boxes of files. I looked through there, through all the documents," Hoogacker told us. "And with the one company that they used to - well, supposedly do an accident recreation - all of that was done by Rachel Catalanotto, Chuck's co-counsel. Not one of them, not one document in the whole file had Brian Trainor's name on it. Brian Trainor wasn't even copied on anything."
According to court records, Trainor wasn't listed as a co-counsel on the case.
"The lawyers working on the case don't have to enroll as counsel of record," Ciolino tells us. "They just have to do work - that's the ethical requirement. And not just any work, meaningful work."
Hoogacker has also filed a bar complaint against Chuck Hughes. Now the Bar Association will be receiving another complaint.
Badon says he's going to mail letters off, too, to try and get the lawyer who made racial slurs punished for his comments.
"I'm also filing a complaint with the Bar Association, because of his just total lack of code of conduct," the New Orleans lawmaker tells us. "And the other thing that he's done is he's manipulatively filed a lawsuit in another parish, outside of where this accident happened. The accident happened in Orleans Parish, he filed it in St. Tammany Parish. So his code of conduct and the way that he thinks of people in Orleans Parish is totally reprehensible, and he needs to be sanctioned."