Zurik: Judge Medley takes a bite of the Big Apple, on taxpayers’ tab

Published: Nov. 25, 2015 at 6:53 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2015 at 7:06 PM CST
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File photo of Lloyd Medley during his judgeship
File photo of Lloyd Medley during his judgeship

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A trip to the Big Apple - from Broadway to Park Avenue - who wouldn't "want to be a part of it," as the singer says?

That kind of junket comes with a price - unless you're Judge Lloyd Medley.

"I mean, the whole thing wreaks of inappropriate behavior," says Tulane law professor Joel Friedman. "If I did this at my university, I'd be fired."

Medley served 18 years as a judge in Orleans Civil District Court. On November 4, 2014, he lost his re-election campaign.

About three weeks later, Judge Medley, booked a hotel room, and booked a flight one day later, for a trip to New York at taxpayers' expense.

Medley says he went to New York for a continuing legal education conference - the Weekend with the Stars Seminar.  This continuing education is required of judges: They get money each year for it.

But Medley made the trip in mid-December, about two weeks before his last day as judge.

"Shouldn't we expect more of judges?" Friedman asks. "To go to this in December, weeks before your term is up, when you've been unelected, is shocking. And there is no legitimate explanation that I can conceive of."

The legal conference gathered the nation's top trial lawyers.

"Judges don't try cases, they adjudicate these cases," Friedman says. "If he thought that this program would be helpful to his post-judicial career as a litigator, it would be fine for him to go - but then he has to pay for that. That's not what the state fund is for - the state fund is for judges' judicial training, to help them in their role as a judge."

Taxpayers paid for a $300 flight and a $2,000 hotel room.  Medley got $118 a day for meals. Throw in taxi fare, tolls, airport parking, even a $15 fax and a $99 upgrade for a choice airline seat.  All totaled, the trip cost the public $3,029.43.

But there's more.

The conference was held at the Conrad Hotel, near the southern tip of Manhattan. But Judge Medley stayed nearly seven miles away, at the Kimberly Hotel near Central Park.  So, once Medley woke in "a city that never sleeps," he had to take a 30-minute subway or cab ride to the conference.

"Now, if he stayed at that hotel seven miles because it was half the price of the conference hotel and he's trying to save the taxpayers' money, then I say, 'Bravo,'" Friedman tells us.

But no, no savings there.  The conference hotel had a special rate, $395 a night. At the Kimberly, Medley paid $539 one night, $609 the other two.

"As somebody who goes to conferences all the time, almost always I stay in the conference hotel," Friedman says, "because why would I want to travel to go to the rooms where the meetings are?"

In 2013, the year before this New York trip, Medley attended two continuing legal education seminars, both in New Orleans.

But here's something interesting.  Consider the records for both of those conferences. The court reimbursed Medley for the registration fees. The 2014 Weekend with the Stars Seminar had a $945 registration fee.  But records show he never asked for reimbursement for any fee.

"If the hotel he stayed at is seven miles away from the conference hotel, is he going to the conference at all?" Friedman wonders.

We tried to reach Medley by phone and email. Through a spokesperson, he refused to speak with us on camera.

Friedman says there are only so many ways to explain this: "To go to a conference weeks before your time is up, to allegedly go to a continuing education conference to enhance your abilities to be a judge when you're going to be off the bench in weeks… and to go to a conference that has nothing to do with the skills that a judge needs or the substantive law content that a judge needs to know… there is no rational explanation I can offer, other than, there was money in the pot, if you don't spend it now, you lose it, and it gives you a chance to go to a very nice hotel in a nice place. "

A nice trip to the Big Apple, paid for by the taxpayers - not exactly "vagabond shoes" for this ousted judge.

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