Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Justice of the Peace 2nd District Mary Foret for what they said were Ex Parte communications in her role as judge and allowing the constable too much input in helping her maintain order in the courtroom and in rendering a decision.
The Supreme Court has lost sight of the realities that the lowest court of the land contends with that the higher courts do not. This same lack of awareness has also caused them to not understand how the suspension of the 2nd District court judge is not only overly harsh but hurts the voters of the district.
First, let’s put this whole thing into perspective. This all started over a $40 lawsuit for plumbing services. I can only imagine the mindset and joy of individuals who take the time and money to personally fight over $40 in a courtroom. The higher courts will never understand the precarious situation a Justice of the Peace is in from the beginning as they will never see a case like this.
Secondly, the higher courts have facilities, professional lawyers, set office hours, and paid security. A Justice of the Peace has to provide all of these things by themselves the best they can.
“Ex parte” rules and a judge’s role make perfect sense in larger court settings where serious money or jail time is at stake. But when you are dealing with petty, stubborn, ignorant individuals who are fighting over $40 these rules were not and cannot be used to bring justice to such a joke of a case. That is the entire reason you have these lower courts. To have someone elected by the people who is local and knows the local people that live in their area to try and talk sensibly to them and dig out what the real issues are at hand and try to bring the people to a resolution and not clog up the higher courts with petty matters.
A law degree, college education or even youth or not prerequisite’s for this job. Only that an individual put themselves up for public election and a majority of the residents of this small district agree you are the best person to resolve these types of issues.
A justice of the peace is a person with a sense of fairness and ability to get to the heart of a matter to bring real justice to smaller matters. This helps those who could never afford an attorney and keeps the higher courts from becoming back logged. And that is exactly what Ms. Mary has done for the past 20 years without incident.
From what I have seen ALL justices of the peace use information obtained from other means to try and save time and render a fair verdict. Ms. Mary did not suddenly start running her court this way recently. So why is this being punished now?
Why are not all justice of the peace’s being investigated for what is common practice and what higher courts have turned a blind eye from? It makes one wonder if other politics and motives are at work here.
Was the judgment in the $40 case wrong? Did Ms. Mary stand to personally benefit? Was any real harm done? The answer is a resounding “no” to all of these questions.
Ms. Mary is a 79-year-old lady, whose husband had a stroke, who holds court at all different times of day and night at the convenience of the residents of her district for the last 20 years.
In Ms. Mary’s appeals letter she explains that the two-month suspension will cost her nearly $5,000 due to having to pay back insurance premiums during the term of the suspension. It seems overly harsh and cruel to leave a 79-year-old woman with a dying husband without health insurance for two months.
Finally, the higher courts do not understand how their decision does not only hurt Ms. Mary but the voters who elected her. When I called different local officials such as the District Attorney’s Office, which forwarded the complaints, no one could tell me when Ms. Mary’s suspension would start or if she could handle legal issues in the meantime.
Ms. Mary advised me she did not really know and that only when she was officially suspended an “ad hoc” judge would hear her cases. But she did not know where or what times the new judge would be available.
This is a major disruption to people who have scheduled weddings and eviction court cases. Once these things are scheduled, it is imperative that they are carried out as planned. The higher court suspending the judge with no clear way to properly handle the current caseload really punishes the residents who depend on her unfairly.
In addition, we will have to deal with an unknown judge we did not vote for.
I am asking for commonsense to prevail and for the Supreme Court to find another solution. Ms. Mary is up for re-election in two months. If the residents have a problem with her, she can be voted out then. But having her forcibly removed hurts all of us and is a violation of the voters will. A more sensible solution is to simply require training to correct any procedural errors that may have occurred as it is obvious no intentional wrong doing occurred and Ms. Mary was serving the people the best way she knew how.