Pressure builds for more transparency on judges with powerful business lobby’s new program

Louisiana’s powerful business lobby announced Thursday that it plans to ramp up activism in courtrooms with a new program meant to put a spotlight on the state’s opaque judiciary.

Though the public elects judges in Louisiana, voters are usually not privy to details about judicial misconduct that the Judiciary Commission can address with private cautions, admonishments and reminders to judges. Less than 1 percent of complaints filed about judges have reached the threshold to become public over the past five years, according to a recent Advocate analysis of Judiciary Commission data and rules about secrecy.

But the newspaper’s exposure of hidden past investigations into Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes — and apology letters he later wrote to those who appeared in his courtroom — has given rise to calls for more transparency in the state’s judiciary. A Covington attorney recently filed a lawsuit to declare that the law that requires secrecy in judicial investigations is unconstitutional.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is also adding pressure on the system, and the group revealed details Thursday about its newly created judicial program. LABI plans to evaluate judges based on categories like the length of time it takes them to clear dockets, their professionalism and more.

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