Judge-Jessie-Leblanc-large.jpg

Judge Jessie LeBlanc

CONVENT — A state district judge accused of having an affair with a then-chief sheriff's deputy in Assumption Parish while presiding over criminal cases in that parish returned to the bench Monday following sick leave.

But 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc presided over criminal and civil matters in neighboring in St. James Parish and not in Assumption. Both are part of the same three-parish judicial district that also includes Ascension Parish.

District Attorney Ricky Babin and Chief Public Defender Alan Robert jointly filed a motion late last month to have LeBlanc recused from more than 170 pending criminal cases in Assumption due to the affair allegations and the judge's public response to them.

That motion was still pending in Napoleonville by late Monday afternoon, court officials said.

With her husband, David LeBlanc, sitting to the side among court personnel, Judge LeBlanc handled her criminal docket in Convent on Monday with typical matter-of-factness.

She set new court dates, counseled one defendant in parish jail to take an offer of drug treatment seriously and promised another inmate that she would find out why authorities hadn't reevaluated him to see if he is competent to stand trial despite her previous order.

Since Jan. 15, the Supreme Court has issued four orders assigning temporary judges to cover LeBlanc's court dates while allowing her to retain her authority as a judge.

It's not clear what action, if any, the high court or a state commission may be taking to investigate or suspend LeBlanc in light of the affair allegations and the potential conflict it may pose for her in Assumption cases going back to the start of her judgeship in 2012.

Bruce Prejean, after first denying an intimate relationship with LeBlanc, told Assumption Sheriff Leland Falcon that they had had an affair starting around the time she became judge, the sheriff has said. LeBlanc has claimed Prejean was being untruthful but has also said she had a close friendship with Prejean.

In a letter Monday to Judge Jason Verdigets, the chief judge for the 23 Judicial District, some clarity was given on some of the reasons for LeBlanc's absence from court in recent weeks. Court officials have declined to comment on matters relating to the judge.

LeBlanc's attorney, Jill Craft, wrote that LeBlanc had been on a two-week sick leave that ended Friday and that the Supreme Court had appointed temporary judges to handle her docket during that leave period.

Craft wrote that judges don't have a "formal mechanism for recording or requesting leave," so she provided the letter detailing the leave time and the Supreme Court appointments along with a summary of LeBlanc's calendar.

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.