Supreme Court removes New Orleans judge from bench
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court removed Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King from the bench Thursday while she faces indictment for allegedly lying about where she lived in sworn qualifying papers last year.
The court's ruling follows a May 2 recommendation from the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana for "immediate interim disqualification" of King, who won a runoff election a year ago to serve out the term of now-Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier.
The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/1sTnu7w) reports King will still be paid while Attorney General Buddy Caldwell pursues prosecution of two felony charges related to a sworn qualifying paper in which she listed her domicile as being on Stillwater Drive in New Orleans. For years, King maintained a homestead exemption for a house she owns in Slidell, including in 2008, when she lost a bid for a seat on the criminal bench.
Judges must be domiciled in the parish or district where they serve for at least a year prior to election, under the state constitution.
King was indicted March 20 for filing a false public record and violating the state election code.
King's attorney, Jim Williams, argued in a legal filing Wednesday that the indictment was the result of "malicious complaints made by her opponents" when she ran for juvenile court last year, and that the commission failed to establish grounds for removing her.
King asserts that during the campaign the FBI investigated threats against her, including threats of "criminal prosecution and a Judiciary Commission investigation if she did not meet the demands being made by the FBI targets."
"The FBI conducted extensive surveillance and recorded evidence of these threats," Williams wrote. "Judge King ultimately did not meet the demands of the FBI targets. Not coincidentally, she is now being prosecuted and investigated both criminally and by the Judiciary Commission."
The people making the threats purportedly investigated by the FBI are not named by Williams.
The Supreme Court rejected that argument.
Williams also echoed an earlier argument by King that she received the homestead exemption "unknowingly and improperly" from the St. Tammany Parish Assessor's Office. Assessor's documents seem to suggest otherwise, showing that King signed an application on Sept. 8, 2006, claiming an exemption for the Slidell house.
The exemption allows eligible homeowners to pay no taxes on the first $75,000 of the property's value.
King's signature also appears on a declaration of covenants for a Road Home grant recorded in January 2008 for the Slidell property, court records show. In the declaration, King pledged to occupy the property as her primary residence within three years.
It's unclear whether any other elected official in the state has faced criminal prosecution for allegedly lying about their home addresses, although many candidates have faced court challenges to their residency.
Chief Judge Bernette Johnson, for whom King once worked, recused herself from the decision.