Something happened last week which should make clear to every voter with a brain just how dangerous it is to allow the cabal of coastal lawsuit attorneys John Bel Edwards has allowed to savage the oil and gas industry to control Louisiana’s judiciary.
Chief among those is John Carmouche, of the Baton Rouge law firm Talbot Carmouche & Marcello, who for years has been funneling large sums of money into Supreme Court races. That project is in furtherance of the aim of packing the Louisiana Supreme Court with judges who will vote to allow the so-far-hopeless attempts to sue oil companies for the state’s loss of coastal marshes. Millions of dollars have been spent, and two Supreme Court justices with less-than-impressive resumes have been elected in conservative districts – those being Jeff Hughes and Jimmy Genovese.
Carmouche’s money machine is now deployed in favor of Metairie judge Hans Liljeberg, who seems to be a bit of an underdog against Covington judge Will Crain in the current Supreme Court race. Liljeberg has protested accusations that his support prejudices a future coastal lawsuit ruling, saying that he can’t be bought.
Hopefully that’s true, but it seems fairly clear that Carmouche disagrees. And what happened last week should suggest to voters in that district it isn’t safe to take that chance.
A former Hammond city councilman is claiming in a sworn affidavit that Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes III paid him a house call this week and offered him $5,000 to flip his public support in the Nov. 16 runoff for an open seat alongside Hughes on the state’s highest court.
Johnny E. Blount’s troubling allegation came in an affidavit dated Wednesday, the same day he claims Hughes showed up at his house. The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate obtained a copy of the affidavit.
Reached by phone, Blount confirmed his authorship and stood by his claim.
“I couldn’t figure out where he was coming from,” Blount said of Hughes. “I ain’t never been offered that much money.”
“Justice Hughes offered me $5000 to support Judge Hans Liljeberg in the upcoming Supreme Court race,” Blount wrote in his affidavit. “Justice Hughes left his business card with me to call him if I decided to accept his offer.”
Blount did not say what services he was expected to perform for the money, if any, aside from providing his public endorsement for Liljeberg.
Blount said officials with Crain’s campaign encouraged him to spell out the claim in a sworn statement, which was notarized by attorney Ross Lagarde, a Crain supporter.
If Blount’s allegations are true, Hughes may have violated the Judicial Code of Conduct, which bars judges or judicial candidates from publicly endorsing or opposing another candidate for public office, or for making contributions to political campaigns.
Liljeberg said he doesn’t know who Johnny Blount is and that he had nothing to do with anything Blount alleges. We’re willing to believe that.
The problem is the same people backing Liljeberg are the ones who backed Hughes, who has a history of judicial incompetence and ethical problems going back a couple of decades or more, and Genovese, who rumor has it might be stepping down from the Supreme Court soon under gathering clouds related to the $1.9 million the trial bar spent getting him elected in 2016.
And if you think, assuming Johnny Blount is telling the truth, that Jeff Hughes would have been coming out of pocket for that $5,000, well…you’re a little too naive to be following Louisiana politics.
It may be that Liljeberg is as much a victim in this as he is a beneficiary. We’re willing to believe that. The problem is we really can’t take the chance. Because between Bernette Johnson, the New Orleans Democrat who serves as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Hughes and Genovese, the trial bar and coastal lawsuit cabal own three of the seven members of that court and Liljeberg would be the fourth. He would make a majority.
And Carmouche and company would certainly believe they own him, and with him the Court.
Would they be right? Do they have anything on him to cement that relationship? Is he already on board? It’s widely said Carmouche recruited Liljeberg to run to begin with.
And now we have an indication of what kinds of tactics are employed to win a Louisiana Supreme Court race.
Do you really want to see what the results of those tactics would be when it comes to the law of the land? Our thinking is that nobody in their right mind would look at this and decide to do business in this state again.
Will Crain needs to win that Supreme Court race. If he doesn’t, there will be trouble.