Judge's departure from bench causes controversy

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:10 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 12 at 9:39 PM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- The court's largest docket backlog. The highest expenses for out-of-town travel. The free use of the courthouse for her wedding.

New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Lynda Van Davis has been one of the more controversial figures at Tulane and Broad during her nine years on the bench. Now even her departure has become a contentious issue. 

Judge Van Davis planned for Friday to be her last day at work before leaving to join her husband in Egypt. She had a couple of going away parties. She told her staff goodbye.

But the secretary of state has thrown a monkey wrench into those plans.

“This is the absurd carried to a new level, even for Louisiana,” said Rafael Goyeneche, of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

Van Davis asked to move up her resignation in a letter to Secretary of State Tom Schedler. “Unfortunately, expedited travel orders have been received to join my husband out of the country the week of October 15, 2012.  Therefore, regretfully, please accept this amended and supplemental notarized letter of resignation from my position as Judge of the Criminal District Court of the Parish of Orleans, Section B, effective at the conclusion of the Court’s business on October 12, 2012.”

According to a letter from the secretary of state's office Van Davis cannot move up her departure date from December 31 -- the date she originally requested -- to Oct. 12. 

Schedler replied to Van Davis, “Pursuant to La. R.S. 18:645(A), your letter of resignation was irrevocable on July 17, 2012, and may not be amended to change the effective date of resignation contained in your original letter of resignation.  Accordingly, my office has no authority to recognize your subsequent letter of resignation.”

So even though a though a temporary judge will fill in beginning on Monday, Van Davis is being forced to take vacation time at taxpayer expense instead of leaving the state payroll. 

Goyeneche said he can't understand why state law wouldn't allow a judge to alter a resignation date. “The absurdity is that whenshe submitted her amended resignation letter to the secretary of state’s office, the secretary of state’s office is refusing it. The result of that is the taxpayers are going to have to pay for her salary while she runs out two and half months of vacation time.”
 
Retired Judge Jerome Winsberg has been assigned by the State Supreme Court to fill in as judge pro tempore for Section B from Oct. 15 through Dec. 31. 

A special election to fill the judgeship is being held Nov. 6. In the race, Tracey Flemings-Davalier and Glenn Woods are vying for the seat, but the winner isn't scheduled to take the bench until January 1st.
 

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