Jennifer Medley is one of many citizens who appear fed up with the crime and poor management of New Orleans. Medley reportedly joined thousands of others in signing a petition to recall New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. As a single mom working in the city, she has good reason to be concerned. However, Medley is also a judge. Indeed, she is the very judge that just ruled on the recall effort without disclosing that her name is one of those seeking the recall.
Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Medley ruled recently in favor of an agreement to reduce the recall threshold by 5,000 names. However, back in December, she was one of those who signed the petition.
The parties were apparently unaware that she was ruling on a petition that she signed. Judge Medley previously also ruled for recall organizers in rejecting a motion to dismiss and barring election officials from questioning recall organizer Eileen Carter on the number of signatures that the organizers collected.
There is no question that Medley should have revealed her status as a petitioner and, in my view, she should have recused herself from the matter.
The conflict of interest contravenes a number of provisions in the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct, including Canon 1 requiring judges to uphold the independence and integrity of the court system.
It also contravened Canon 2 in failing to “avoid Impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”
It also contravened Canon 3 in failing act impartially. This canon clearly mandates a recusal in this case by mandating the following:
“C. Recusation. A judge should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned and shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which disqualification is required by law or applicable Supreme Court rule. In all other instances, a judge should not recuse himself or herself.”
The conflict of interest also clearly contravened Canon 5 in my view:
A Judge Shall Regulate Extra-Judicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict With Judicial Duties
A. Avocational Activities. A judge may write, lecture, teach, and speak on non-legal subjects, and engage in the arts, sports, and other social and recreational activities, if such avocational activities do not detract from the dignity of judicial office or interfere with the performance of judicial duties.
B. Civic and Charitable Activities. A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon his or her impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties.”
I do not believe that Medley should have ever signed the petition given the potential conflict with cases involving the mayor coming before her.
One could debate the propriety of Judge Medley in signing such a petition, but there should be no debate on her need to disclose that she is an interested party in the matter.
Judge Medley ran on a pledge that “as a single, working mother, Jennifer knows the crucial role the court plays in our lives.” Yet, part of that crucial role is impartiality and avoiding even the appearance of bias or conflicts of interest. That was not done in this case.