Lafayette attorneys Alfred Boustany and Thomas Guilbeau weigh in on The IND's online story last week, "Judge Ed Rubin was go-to guy in tainted OWI cases."
[Editor's Note: In separate responses submitted via email, Lafayette attorneys Alfred Boustany II and Thomas Guilbeau weigh in on The IND's online story last week, "Judge Ed Rubin was go-to guy in tainted OWI cases." Their letters, in their entirety, appear below.]
The media coverage surrounding the convictions of three people employed by the District Attorney's Office has called into question the process of allowing deserving first criminal offenders to quickly admit a mistake and take early steps to rehabilitate. This process recognizes the basic fact that we can all make a mistake but if we learn from that mistake and pay our debt to society, we should not have this one mistake haunt us for the rest of our lives. It is the essence of rehabilitation and forgiveness, and has been - and should continue to be - a part of the American system of criminal justice.
Article 894 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure recognizes this process of rehabilitation and forgiveness for first offenders. Article 894 allows a judge to defer imposition of a criminal sentence and place a deserving offender on probation. At the completion of the sentence, the judge can set aside the conviction and dismiss the prosecution. The record of the arrest and prosecution can then be removed from the public record.
In prosecutions for first offense operating a vehicle while intoxicated, mental health professionals, prosecutors and judges recognize the importance of beginning substance abuse and driver improvement programs immediately after an arrest. This early intervention benefits society and the offender, and often prevents repeat offenses.
But mental health professionals, prosecutors and judges also know that substance abuse offenders must often be coaxed into quickly beginning rehabilitation and treatment programs. So as an incentive to early intervention, some prosecutors and judges began offering an early disposition of the case. That early disposition came in the form of an immediate set aside of a conviction if, on the date of the offender's conviction, the offender had already completed a substance abuse program, driver improvement program, and other special conditions of a typical probation. Most mental health professionals, prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys saw this as a productive and positive process.
As with most good programs, some enterprising, dishonest people found a way to corrupt the system. But the problem is not the system. The problem lies with the parties who took advantage of the good intentions of a few good people. And the blame lies not with the decent, hardworking prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges but with those few dishonest people who corrupted the process for personal gain.
In the media coverage of the recent convictions one reporter disparagingly referred to one judge as the "go to" judge for getting this process done. But the facts are that over the years many good, decent, and honest judges like him across this state recognized the importance of this process and encouraged the early intervention into the lives of those deserving offenders. These "go to" judges did this not for personal gain but because rehabilitation and forgiveness for deserving offenders has always been a part of the American system of criminal justice. As a society that believes in rehabilitation and forgiveness we should hope it remains that way.
Alfred F. Boustany II
Please accept this as a response to your recent article implying that Judge Edward Rubin may have been guilty of unethical behavior or bad judgment in the recent controversy over "immediate 894 O.W.I. sessions."
Nothing could be further from the truth as Judge Rubin acted in good faith and totally within the letter of the law and judicial ethics when he took those matters up and properly granted to the individuals the relief they were fully entitled to under the law. Indeed not to grant the relief sought would have been improper so Judge Rubin was simply carrying out the duty he is charged with under the law to be fair and impartial to all parties appearing before him.
District Attorney Mike Harson has made it clear that ALL of the legal requirements were fulfilled in ALL of the cases in question and nothing improper was done by Judge Rubin or his staff in this controversy. The wrong doers in this affair have been charged by the federal authorities and they do not include Judge Rubin.
Judge Rubin has served with distinction and honor for 20 years on the district bench. He is a graduate of Paul Breaux High School, and received his undergraduate and law degrees from Southern University. Upon graduation from law school, he taught business Law at Southern University and is a former assistant parish attorney for Lafayette Parish.
He is a man who has always conducted himself in the highest professional and ethical manner in a 40-year career of public service and to infer anything less than honesty and integrity with his name is simply wrong and unfair.
Thomas E. Guilbeau