Judicial Misconduct: Simmesport’s Justice of the Peace suspended
On recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered on May 10, 2011, that Justice of the Peace Roger Adams, Sr., of Ward 7/ Simmesport, 12th District, Parish of Avoyelles, State of Louisiana, be suspended without pay for one year, followed by a two-year period of probation, attend the Attorney General’s justice of the peace training every year until his term of probation is completed, reimburse and pay to the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana the sum of US$532.58.
The court opines that Adams violated Canons 1, 2 (A), and 3 (A) (1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and Article V, Section 25 (C) of the Louisiana Constitution.
Adams, an African-American non-lawyer and Democrat has been in office for eight years. The first time the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended him was in June of 2007 (In re: Adams, 07-0426 (La. 6/29/07), 959 So.2d 474). The justice of the peace admitted he had issued arrest warrants for two persons for a parade permit violation and having set excessively high bonds in retaliation for their political opposition to the mayor of the Town of Simmesport, James T. “Boo” Fontenot (July 7, 1951 – August 4, 2008).
In April 2008, an inmate at the Avoyelles Women’s Correctional Center in Simmesport asked Adams to sign a judgment of her and her husband’s divorce. Although justices of the peace do not have jurisdiction (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 4913) in such matters, Adams signed the document and received a US$10.00 “notary fee” in return. Further mistakes were:
- Adams did not assign a case number for his judgment (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 4918).
- Adams did not inquire, verify, or determine whether the lady of St. Tammany Parish was legally entitled to a divorce under Louisiana Civil Code article 103.
- Adams did not verify service of a default judgment (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 4921) or otherwise inquire or properly determine that the jail inmate’s husband was actually in default.
- Adams did not hold any hearing.
Adams uses the Justice Court Manual prepared by the Louisiana Attorney General to assist justices of the peace in the performance of their duties, but he also admits that he made a “hasty decision.”
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled, “Adams’s [sic] lack of familiarity with even the most basic rules pertaining to the exercise of his authority in a civil matter constitutes serious misconduct.”