In a moment of déja vu, a 16th Judicial District Court judge has continued without date hearing one of hundreds of recusal motions the 16th JDC District Attorney’s Office has filed against 16th JDC Judge Lori Landry.
District Judge Keith Comeaux is the second judge in as many days to push off hearing a recusal motion against Landry. On Friday, District Judge Greg Aucoin was the first judge to do so.
“It will take me about two days to hear evidence in this case,” Aucoin said. “I have not cleared the time on the docket for that.”
As with Comeaux on Monday, Aucoin did not set a date to re-hear the motion.
The motion Aucoin heard was filed on Sept. 17, in the case of Kerry Stokes, who is facing trial for attempted second-degree murder and other associated charges.
Since the initial motion was filed, assistant district attorneys have filed motions in every criminal case Landry has attempted to hear — almost 400 so far, many of those unsigned motions on file with the Iberia Parish Clerk of Court, awaiting hearings to be entered into the individual case records.
Scores of Landry’s supporters have gathered in court Friday and Monday to show solidarity with the judge.
“This is an attempt to remove a judge, duly elected by the people, from the bench,” said state Rep. Terry Landry, Judge Landry’s uncle. “If you want to remove a judge, there’s a process for that through the state Supreme Court.”
He also questioned the basis of the motion itself.
“None of her rulings have come into question,” Landry said. “None of her qualifications have come into question. All of this is based on hurt feelings and a feeling that that she is bullying them.”
The 27-page motion, which has basically been rubber-stamped for each case, with only the name of the accused changed, claims that Landry “is biased or prejudiced against (the District Attorney’s) office such that she cannot be fair or impartial.”
The motion 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 have 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.
In court on Oct. 3, Landry read through the entire motion, citing each specific case in which the DA’s office claimed she had exhibited bias.
“I don’t believe it makes reference to any of your cases,” she told the gallery as she began. She skimmed through the text, stopping at each defendant named in the motion.
“Is this name on our docket?” she asked occasionally.
“No, judge,” the clerk replied each time.
As she read the document, Landry occasionally expressed sarcasm.
“On occasion, they say I even raised my voice,” Landry said, raising her eyebrows dramatically.
Previously, Landry had decried the recusal motion as baseless and without merit.
“This is a violation of the constitutional rights of the people who elected me,” Landry said earlier this month.
Defense attorneys have also raised questions with the shotgun recusal motions. When the motion to recuse the judge is entered in a case, that judge cannot take any action until the motion is heard and decided. If the first two continuances are any indication, that could take a while.
Sixteenth JDC District Attorney Bo Duhé said on Oct. 3 that maintaining the flow of cases through the district was a concern and that several ideas are being discussed to handle the motion hearings that his office’s effort to have Landry removed from any cases involving his office — essentially all criminal cases in the three-parish 16th JDC — has generated.
In the meantime, the defendants in the criminal cases before Landry are stuck in limbo. And, as the motion to recuse keeps coming up, judges will have to take time to hear them, or simply continue them as has been the pattern so far.
Members of the public who showed up in support of Landry said they do not agree with the motion’s allegations.
“She is fair person,” Robby Bethel said. “She is an honest person and as long as I’ve known Judge Landry. She has been a person of integrity. If she were to pass sentence on my child, I know it would be out of love.”