The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has turned to the state Supreme Court in its effort to boot New Orleans judges from overseeing a subpoena for Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell’s financial records.
Three days after losing an appeal at the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, the Attorney General’s Office filed a request with the Supreme Court to remove the entire Orleans Parish Criminal District Court bench from reviewing subpoenas for Cantrell’s bank records.
State prosecutors repeated many of the same arguments they have used before in their Dec. 22 filing with the high court. Among other things, they say that the Criminal District Court judges could be biased because Cantrell, as mayor, will have a large say about their budget and because her father-in-law, Harry Cantrell, is a magistrate judge in the same courthouse.
“The entire Orleans Criminal District Court bench may be actually biased or prejudiced in such a way that would prevent a fair and impartial handling of the matter,” the Attorney General’s Office said.
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Prosecutors urged the Supreme Court to reach a decision as soon as possible because Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White has scheduled a Jan. 3 hearing on a motion from Cantrell’s attorney to quash a subpoena for her bank records.
White, who is overseeing the matter for now, has issued a stay on enforcing the subpoena until the hearing next week.
Before announcing her intention to run for mayor, Cantrell reimbursed the New Orleans City Council for nearly $9,000 in charges she made to an official credit card. The campaign of rival candidate Desiree Charbonnet called attention to those reimbursements before the Nov. 18 runoff election, which Cantrell, a Democrat, won by a wide margin.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro recused himself from investigating a complaint about the credit card charges because he backed Charbonnet. He referred the matter to the office of Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican.
Last week a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit ruled 2-1 that White did not abuse her authority in denying requests from the Attorney General’s Office to recuse herself and the entire bench from reviewing subpoenas related to Cantrell.
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Prosecutors said they would be left at a disadvantage if the Supreme Court does not grant their wish and appoint an ad hoc judge to rule on whether the subpoenas should be quashed.
“The state will have to have its hearing before Judge Laurie White, who should have recused herself,” prosecutors said.
The Supreme Court has several options for responding to the Attorney General’s Office's request. It can approve or deny the request or decline to consider the matter altogether.