by Marion Marks
A unanimously vote by the Louisiana Supreme Court (9-0) and the 48-page report for removal of a judge is a concrete case of documented sinister activities. LaLeshia Walker-Alford’s actions were more than simply harmful to the judicial system and those who appeared in her court. She illegally used and took advantage of citizens who worked in her courtroom. Documented charges included far more than abuse of prescription medications, as we were expected to believe in a recent article.
[the full Judiciary Commission report]
Dismissing an idea with “sarcastic laughter or a cynical comment” without study or comprehension would suggest a closed mind, however, in this case, minimal research points to an easy and completely different conclusion than this writer alludes concerning former Judge Walker-Alford. The “incident” was certainly far more than a “solitary event” with minimal supporting pieces, even if Alford has made efforts to “rehabilitated herself and … participated in meaningful ways in society.” However, the “incident,” upon investigation, demonstrates an intentional prolonged pattern of abuse and multiple related abuses that should not be written off as easily as we are asked to forgive and forget.
From the report transcript, “Numerous sworn statements of persons who worked with judge Alford” document “impairment through use of prescription drugs”, “evasive behavior to seek voluntary treatment”, “absenteeism”, “unlawful detention of a juvenile”, “personal use of court staff” and “impermissible ex parte communication.” Each violation builds the case for the court’s ruling against Walker-Alford. And, I have been told, the decision to remove Walker-Alford from the bench was not temporary, but she was told she could not run for any open judicial seat. So, claiming to have learned the lesson and seeking forgiveness, we are asked to raise Walker-Alford to the highest prosecutorial position in Caddo Parish.[Copy of report with highlighted section HERE]
Specifically in the ruling, Walker-Alford was guilty of “locking up a juvenile in an adult facility, in particular in a court that had no facilities for juvenile detention, was legally wrong. … in addition to the illegality of ordering (the juvenile) detained in a holding cell, Judge Alford’s speech to him was excessive and demonstrated her failure to be patient, dignified, and courteous (“. . . you will be in juvenile detention so fast, and by the time your lawyer get [sic] to you, you would have been raped by somebody else.”).
This behavior was not only offensive to the court, but the response to the charges by Walker-Alford was cited as offensive. “The Commission found it disturbing that Judge Alford testified that even if she lost her robe as the result of her treatment of (the juvenile), it would have been worth it. The Commissioners concluded that had this been the only proven charge as to Judge Alford’s ethical misconduct, they would have recommended public censure to the Court.”
So, as a judge, Walker-Alford was guilty of missing “an inordinate amount of work as the result of her physical and psychological dependencies,” a “pattern of continued absenteeism and her failure to first notify her court staff that she would not be present, and her practice of habitually appearing late for court.” She abused those before her in court as well as her own staff!
There can be NO justifiable endorsement for this candidate until a lengthy record of rehabilitation and public service exists. The next Caddo Parish District Attorney must immediately demonstrate and demand just, honest and respectful conduct in his office, including unquestioned protection of citizen rights. The next Caddo District Attorney must internalize the Mission Statement already on the record. This mission statement requires those who serve in the office will:
Promote a work environment that emphasizes high ethical standards, professionalism and competent legal representation.
Establish an atmosphere of compassion, trust and mutual respect.
Maintain public confidence by creating a day to day operation that is efficient and effective.
Provide training for employees and education for the public to be knowledgeable about the administration of justice.
Create and maintain open communication to promote the best interests of the community.
Encourage an environment that is positive and courteous among employees and members of the public.
Collaborate with law enforcement and community groups to deter crime.
Ensure the rights of victims are upheld with dedication to treating victims with dignity, respect and compassion.
Any candidate whose record cannot demonstrate already working to live up to this standard should reconsider filing to run in September. Justice in Caddo Parish will see constructive change ONLY if our next district attorney internalizes basic tenants of this mission statement.