The state Supreme Court denied an Ascension Parish justice of the peace’s appeal Monday of the high court’s March ruling that he be removed from office over allegations of rude behavior and improper handling and abuse of the peace bond process.
With the decision, Leroy Laiche Jr., 2nd District justice of the peace in Prairieville, is out of office and an interim replacement must be found, a Supreme Court spokeswoman Valerie Willard said. The denial Monday also upholds the court’s prior ruling that Laiche pay $14,244 in investigative and prosecutorial costs to the state Judiciary Commission.
Laiche had sought a rehearing on the Supreme Court’s order March 15. While that request was pending, he remained a sitting justice of peace, Willard said.
The Supreme Court found, 5-2, that Laiche had committed judicial misconduct so severe the actions “cast a dark shadow on the judiciary.”
Laiche, a former assistant district attorney in the 23rd Judicial District, was serving a second six-year term as justice of the peace. The allegations against him arose from four complaints filed with the state Office of Special Counsel in spring and summer 2011.
The complaints focused on his handling of peace bonds in two family disputes: one over child custody and the other over the children of a man who had died and sought a peace bond against their stepmother.
In addition to rude behavior, Laiche had faced questions about double-charging fees for the bonds for his personal benefit, being too slow to refund bonds and bond fees and jailing people for longer than the law allows over failure to put up the bonds.
Peace bonds are like a restraining order. After a complaint and a hearing, justices of the peace can order defendants to put up a peace bond of as much as $1,000 for as long as six months to keep the peace. Defendants can lose their bond if they break the peace or go to jail for up to five days.
Laiche had earlier claimed the Office of Special Counsel, the prosecutorial arm of the Judiciary Commission that recommended his removal, went on a one-sided “witch hunt instigated by four people whose mental faculties are greatly in question.”
In his request for rehearing, Laiche argued that a suspension was a more appropriate penalty. Also, he argued, the allegations of rude behavior were tied to claims from three people about alleged behavior in court hearings that was not recorded, though Laiche later apologized.
Laiche also wanted to introduce new testimony from the Ascension Parish Prison warden that one of the women whom Laiche had sentenced to 13 days in jail also was being held in jail on separate felony criminal charges.
The court majority gave no reason Monday for denying the rehearing, but Justices John L. Weimer and Jeff Hughes III would have granted the request.
They opposed removing Laiche in March and said they preferred suspending him. Laiche and his attorney did not return messages for comment Monday.