Medium Rare

by Patrick Flanagan

Choice cuts from Acadiana's news media for Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014:

Choice cuts from Acadiana's news media for Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014:

The annual Summer School for Judges conference in Destin, Fla., has proven popular among judges with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.

All expenses paid
A majority of judges with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal have a taste for travel, according to this investigative report by KATC TV3, racking up about $170,000 in expenses last year.

Close to 70 percent of that, according to the report, was for attendance at conferences. Third circuit judges are required to earn 12.5 "Continuing Legal Education" hours per year, all of which can be earned with one to trip to Destin, Fla., which plays host every year to the Summer School for Judges conference.

While all the judges who spoke with KATC credit their travel to increasing their knowledge of the job, Judge Elizabeth Picket, who was unavailable for comment, spent only $30 last year and was able to earn all her CLE credits without ever leaving the state by completing an online course.

Yet, Picket seems to be the exception, especially when compared to Judge Sylvia Cooks, whose penchant for travel goes above and beyond what is required. According to the report, she logged over 40 CLE credit hours last year; remember, the requirement is only for 12.5 hours.

Her explanation: A civic duty to share her knowledge of the legal system with younger judges, as well as lawyers.

"Our ability to go to these CLEs, and to be more effective presenters on exactly what those cases were about and what the rulings were about, I believe it's of great value to the legal community, not only in this state but across the country," Cooks tells KATC.

While that desire to learn and spread knowledge is all well and fine, an annual summer trip to Destin, Fla. probably doesn't hurt either, especially when it's on the public dime.

Working the system
Dennis Persica of the Advocate looks at the state of Louisiana's school voucher program in this column, which based on a recent report by the Legislative Auditor's Office, is in need of some major reform.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's report, despite being criticized by some state lawmakers, reveals a number of glaring abuses of the voucher program.

According to the auditor's report, of the 118 participating schools, 30 percent charged the state more than their school's regular tuition. Students at five of the schools didn't even meet the economic requirements for the voucher program, and 18 schools had a student body comprised of more than 50 percent of voucher students, with one school in New Orleans having an 87 percent population of voucher students.

"Vouchers are supposed to give parents an alternative by letting them choose schools that have proven themselves in a competitive market," writes Persica. "But it's not hard to conclude that many of the participating schools might have been crushed by market pressures if it weren't for voucher money keeping them afloat."