The recent investigative series by Andrea Gallo and John Simerman shines a light on the troubling lack of transparency in the way Louisiana’s judiciary handles allegations of misconduct. At the center of the investigation is current Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes. While Hughes was under investigation for years by the FBI, the public remained unaware. Investigations began while he was still serving as state judge in Livingston Parish through his election to the Supreme Court — twice. As aptly noted by The Advocate’s opinion writers, the outcome would likely have been much different if the voting public had been privy to the investigations regarding his alleged misconduct.
Now a lawsuit has been filed by a Covington attorney — who is also running for the open seat on the Supreme Court — declaring the state statute calling for secrecy in judicial investigations unconstitutional. And the latest in the series points to Louisiana taxpayers reimbursing Hughes for his legal expenses to the tune of nearly $100,000.
Louisiana’s lack of judicial transparency, combined with several factors that make our state an outlier, helped cement our long-standing reputation as having one of the worst legal climates in the country. Louisiana consistently lands at or near the bottom of most national business climate rankings and was ranked as the fifth worst “Judicial Hellhole” in the U.S. last year.
It has been said that sunshine is the best disinfectant. That is certainly true in this case. Transparency is key to maintaining the trust and confidence voters have placed in our judiciary, as well as to ensuring our judges are holding themselves to the highest standards of conduct. There is no place for bias in our court system. The judiciary should be held to standards as other branches of government and should be accountable to the voters who elected them. It is time for the public to demand change.
executive director, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch