September 2, 2009
The Honorable Donald R. Johnson
Judge, Section 7, Division B
Nineteenth Judicial District Court
Suite 619 Governmental Building
222 St. Louis Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Re: Ethics Board Docket No. 2009-756
Dear Judge Johnson:
The Louisiana Board of Ethics, acting as the Supervisory Committee on Campaign Finance Disclosure, at its August 26, 2009 meeting, considered your request for an advisory opinion concerning the propriety of your use of campaign funds to repay costs and legal expenses you incurred while defending a complaint filed against you with the Judiciary Commission.
In deciding the charges that were brought against you, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that (1) while presiding over drug court, you were not authorized to order defendants to pay fines to various civic or charitable organizations in cases where the organizations were not themselves the crime victims; (2) your conduct in ordering such fines violated Code of Judicial Conduct; (3) you violated Code of Judicial Conduct in permitting your judicial assistant to take dual employment with the federal government; and (4) public censure was warranted as a sanction. In addition, you were ordered to reimburse and pay to the Commission the amount of $5,801.89 in hard costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of the case.
Section 1505.2(I) of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act provides that:
. . . contributions received by a candidate or a political committee may be expended for any lawful purpose, but such funds shall not be used, loaned, or pledged by any person for any personal use unrelated to a political campaign [or] the holding of a public office . . . LSA-R.S. 18:1505.2(I).
The Board expressed the opinion your use of campaign funds to pay legal fees in connection with your defense of the described complaint filed against you with the Judiciary Commission is prohibited by Section 1505.2(I), cited above. The Board issues no opinion as to laws other than the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act.
If you have any questions, please call me at (800) 842-6630 or (225) 219-5600.
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS
For the Board