Dorothy Jackson

Dorothy Jackson

Southern University fired former professor and Elder Law Clinic Director Dorothy Jackson on Friday following multiple investigations and hearings related to Jackson's actions when she wrote a will for a former client of the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging.

Jackson wrote the will in July 2016 for the elderly Helen Plummer, who was an East Baton Rouge Council on Aging client. Plummer's will included hefty payments for Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar to oversee Plummer's estate and trusts. Jackson sits on the Council on Aging's board.

Plummer's family claimed they had never heard of Clark-Amar until Plummer died at age 95 and the Council on Aging head called them about the estate. The family accused Clark-Amar of swindling Plummer. Both Clark-Amar and Jackson later removed themselves from the will and estate. The incident has sprouted multiple lawsuits.

Southern University System President Ray Belton sent a letter Friday to Jackson's New Orleans-based attorney, Bill Aaron, that announced his decision. Belton said his "review of the records" caused him to agree with Law Center Chancellor John Pierre's recommendation that Jackson be fired.

"As such, effectively immediately, Dorothy Jackson is terminated from Southern University Law Center," Belton's letter states.

Southern spokeswoman Janene Tate said Friday that Belton had no further comments.

The decision comes after a Southern Law Center faculty panel held a hearing in December 2017 about the matter. They found that Jackson's actions were unprofessional and that her conduct caused Southern Law to be viewed in a bad light; however, the panel rejected one charge that accused her of unethical or immoral behavior.

Jackson and Clark-Amar's actions are also being investigated by the Office of Inspector General and the Louisiana Board of Ethics. Jackson is also under investigation by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board.

The faculty panel recommended that Jackson be suspended a year without pay, lose her tenure and receive a demotion in rank. But Pierre wrote in a Jan. 31 letter that the cumulative evidence surrounding Jackson's behavior warranted her termination.

Plummer's grandson, Dan Freeman, expressed dismay last month when the faculty panel said Jackson should receive a yearlong suspension. He said her behavior was egregious enough that Southern should fire her.

Freeman and his family celebrated the news Friday that Jackson had been terminated.

"That sets the tone, not only for Southern, but for everybody, not to take advantage of the elderly," Freeman said. "It's time for the Council on Aging to step in and do what they need to do because Dorothy Jackson did not act alone."

The law center's faculty panel thought Plummer did not fully understand the terms of the will that she signed, according to the documents included with the panel's recommendation for Jackson's punishment. They said Plummer was never informed of the total amount of her estate that would go to the head of the Council on Aging, which totaled more than $100,000.

Faculty members were also concerned with the way Jackson wrote Plummer's will through the Elder Law Clinic, but named herself as the attorney for the woman's estate once she died. The clinic provides free legal services to the poor, but Jackson's role as a private attorney for the succession meant she could get paid for her work. 

Southern administrators said during the faculty panel hearings that Jackson should have known that she could not derive private clients from those who were first her clients at the clinic. Pierre turned that into a written policy in July 2017, and it's now enforced that Southern clinical professors and attorneys cannot “for their own pecuniary interest” provide legal services to clients that originate from the school’s database.

Aaron has argued, though, that Pierre's policy was not yet in place when Jackson performed the work on the Plummer case. He said it's unfair to hold her to a policy that did not exist.

Aaron said Friday that Jackson will appeal Southern's decision. They will ask for an appeal from the board of supervisors, and also "exhaust" all other remedies, he said. He maintained that the university was using Jackson as a scapegoat. 

"I don't think we'll take it to court," Aaron said. "I know we'll take it to court."

Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​