Former state lawmaker may run for Jeff council

Whenever he goes to the grocery store or takes his daughters to dance class, former state Rep. John LaBruzzo of Metairie says, he hears the same question: When are you getting back into politics?

The answer these days is: quite possibly soon, to seek a Metairie-based seat on the Jefferson Parish Council that won’t have an incumbent running for it in the Oct. 24 primary.

“If I run, it’s to get back in service. I have a calling to serve, and a lot of people have asked me because they like my values,” said LaBruzzo, 44, an ultra-conservative Republican who expects to decide this month whether to enter the race. “They want someone to represent them, whether it’s in Baton Rouge or Jefferson Parish.”

It’s not clear who else may run for the District 5 seat LaBruzzo is eyeing. Cynthia Lee-Sheng is term-limited from seeking re-election to the post, and she has said she will run for one of two at-large seats on the Parish Council in the fall.

No one has formally declared as a candidate to succeed Lee-Sheng. However, potential candidates include Jennifer Van Vrancken Dwyer, the parish’s chief operating officer under Parish President John Young, and Mike Thomas, an interim appointee to the council from April 2011 to January 2012.

Regardless of who makes up the final field, LaBruzzo believes he’d be a strong candidate.

“There’s no political machine backing me, but I have name recognition,” said LaBruzzo, who in February had about $14,500 in his campaign finance account. “And that is important.”

Many people will remember LaBruzzo for informally proposing in 2008 to pay women receiving welfare $1,000 if they voluntarily chose to be sterilized. In the ensuing backlash, he was accused of being an advocate for eugenics and was stripped of his position as vice chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee.

LaBruzzo made headlines as well by proposing a bill to ban all abortions in the state and subject any doctor who performed one to prosecution on charges of feticide. He also pushed legislation to require random drug testing of welfare recipients who get cash benefits.

Despite the controversy generated by the drug-testing proposal, LaBruzzo said he was “not embarrassed” by it. “I would introduce that bill tomorrow,” he said.

LaBruzzo served two four-year terms in the state House and then lost an election in 2011 to Nick Lorusso, a Republican from New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood. LaBruzzo and Lorusso ran against each other after their respective Metairie- and New Orleans-based districts were combined into one.

Disciplinary board targets Tammany lawyer

Mandeville lawyer Nanine McCool, who clashed with 22nd Judicial District Court Judge Dawn Amacker last year on the campaign trail and in court, broke rules of professional conduct when she took her differences with the judge to social media, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has concluded.

The board is recommending that the state Supreme Court suspend McCool from practicing law for a year and a day and that she be required to attend ethics training.

McCool’s attorney, Richard Ducote, said last fall that a suspension of more than a year would make it more difficult for her to apply for reinstatement.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel brought charges against McCool because of her actions in a custody dispute between a female client and the woman’s ex-husband, who lives in Mississippi. The woman accused her ex of sexually abusing their two young daughters and sought to have his parental rights curtailed. The woman’s new husband was seeking to adopt the girls.

Amacker delayed a decision on the adoption until the Mississippi matter could be resolved and denied a motion for emergency custody.

The girl’s mother and McCool put up a website that linked to online petitions and urged people to contact the two judges and the Louisiana Supreme Court. It also linked to audio recordings of the mother interviewing her children about the alleged abuse.

McCool also chided the judges on Twitter. An Aug. 16, 2011, tweet, for example said, “GIMME GIMME GIMME Evidence! Want some? I got it. Think u can convince a judge to look at it? Sign this petition.’’ It then gave a link to an online petition in the case.

Another tweet said, in part, “I am SO going 2 have 2 change jobs after this ... I’m risking sanctions by the LA supreme court.’’

The Attorney Disciplinary Board found that McCool sought to influence a judge by prohibited means; violated or attempted to violate rules of professional conduct; and engaged in conduct involving deceit, fraud or misrepresentation as well as conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The board declined to find McCool guilty of engaging in “ex parte communications” with a judge, saying she did not have direct communication with either judge, although she encouraged members of the public to contact them.

McCool said her license is not her main concern and that she has never made much money as a lawyer because she has been more focused on trying to help people. “I don’t see the point in taking people’s money when I can’t give them justice or access to justice,’’ she said.

The board’s ruling “sets a frightening parameter for lawyers, (who) can’t call out judges who won’t abide by the law,’’ McCool said.

She complained that the board ignored the facts in her case. “We no longer have a justice system,’’ she said.

Compiled by Ramon Antonio Vargas and Sara Pagones