Acadiana Business

Anything goes with judges' expense fund

by Leslie Turk

$7,302: Amount of public money 15th Judicial District Judge David Blanchet paid over the past five years to have someone prepare his personal financial disclosure forms, according to The Daily Advertiser. The Daily Advertiser's review of the past five years of expense reports of 14 judges in the 15th Judicial District uncovered some hard-to-justify spending. The judges, who are paid $136,000 a year, each were reimbursed anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 a year for expenses paid from the 15th Judicial District expense fund, the paper found. According to state law, civil and criminal court fees feed the fund, which is controlled by, you guessed it, the judges themselves.

In other words, it appears to be perfectly legal. Say what?

Among the story's highlights:

Judge David Blanchet paid $7,302 to have someone prepare his personal financial disclosure forms from 2008 to 2012. Blanchet must have lots of assets but not much lunch money, as he also charged $4,550 eating meals in the district during that time.

Zero. That's how much judges Herman Clause and Marilyn Castle, the review shows, charged the fund for meals.

So just what do the judges have to say for themselves? Nothing. Because none of them returned The Advertiser's calls.

In all, Advertiser reporter Claire Taylor found that 15th JDC judges (Lafayette, Vermilion and Acadia parishes) spent nearly $900,000 in public funds over the past five years that also included car leases, fish tanks for their offices (yes, fish tanks), shirts, a Sam's Club memberships, framed portraits, handmade judicial robes, a concealed gun permit and conferences at the beach.

It is an interesting read (can you imagine the buzz around the courthouse today?). View the full story here.