The ongoing battle between 16th Judicial District Court Judge Lori Landry and 16th JDC District Attorney Bo Duhé’s office took a new turn Thursday as Landry began denying some of the hundreds of recusal motions brought against her over the last six weeks.
Landry was in court hearing cases on the criminal docket Thursday when she began denying the motions, claiming that it was in the best interest of expediency for the defendants.
“I will not stay myself,” Landry said. “The 3rd Circuit (Court of Appeals) can.”
Assistant District Attorney Rob Vines immediately objected to the move, saying that the statute requiring an independent judge to hear a recusal motion does not allow an exemption for delays in the judicial process. Landry overruled the objection, which Vines made in each of the dozens of cases where Landry denied the recusal motion.
Dozens of supporters of Landry were in the courtroom again Thursday. Khadijah Rashad, a Lafayette resident and former president of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP, wore yellow placards pinned to the front and back of her top. The one on the front read “We The People!” The other said “Support Judge Landry.”
Unlike Wednesday’s hearing before 16th JDC Judge Anthony Thibodeaux, Rashad was not asked to leave the court Thursday.
The motion filed against Landry, which has been replicated hundreds of times since the first filing on Sept. 17, claims that she “is biased or prejudiced against (the District Attorney’s) office such that she cannot be fair or impartial.”
The Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct states that “a judge should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The 27-page motion from the District Attorney’s Office describes 36 separate incidents claiming Landry:
• Said prosecutors from the district attorney’s office incarcerated African-Americans more severely and at a higher rate than others, have improper motivations and engaged in “trickery.”
• Engaged in abusive, inappropriate and bullying behavior towards the prosecutors and staff,
• Threatened to stab an assistant district attorney in the ear with an ink pen,
• Physically intimidated an assistant district attorney for a perceived slight,
• Blamed a victim’s family for “allowing” their children to be victimized,
• Repeatedly engaged in in-court behavior calculated to humiliate prosecutors, and
• Refused to fairly and impartially apply the law.
Many of the comments cited in the motion describe Landry claiming the District Attorney’s Office “knew or should have known” of irregularities in the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office prior to the federal convictions of nine officers in 2016.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist,” Landry said, according to the motion.
Landry has denied any bias on her part. She has also called the motion “frivolous and without merit.”
According to the state code of criminal procedure, Landry’s denial of the recusal motion can be appealed, a step Vines said the District Attorney’s Office will take.
The code also states that if a valid ground for recusation is set forth in the motion, the judge shall either recuse themselves or refer the motion to another judge for a hearing, which has been done with the first recusal motion filed against Landry. In denying the recusal motion in cases today, however, Landry said that the motion is baseless and that she can deny it.
It will be up to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal to determine which side is correct. In the meantime, arguments on the motion are currently scheduled for Dec. 13 and 14 in front of 16th JDC Judge Gregory Aucoin.