21 January 2009

state supremes censure 19th judicial district court judge donald r. johnson

note: this judge should not be confused with ninth judicial district court [rapides parish] judge, donald t. johnson.


After a review of the record, we find that Judge Johnson’s conduct violated Canons 1, 2A, 3A(1) and 5B(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure arts. 895 and 895.1. Pursuant to Louisiana Constitution art. V, Section 25 (C). We additionally find that public censure is warranted.

Formal Charge 0266: Improper Allocation of Fines
Between 2003 and 2005, Judge Johnson, while presiding over Drug Court, ordered defendants in 124 criminal cases to pay fines to various public elementary and high schools, and not-for-profit or charitable organizations, ranging from $50 to $5,000 per case, totaling nearly $100,000 in all.

Judge Johnson defended Formal Charge 0266, in part, by pointing out to the Commission that he simply engaged in the same practices as those of his colleagues on the 19th JDC, who preceded him as drug court judges.

Formal Charge 0284: Dual Office Holding
Sara Holliday began working at the 19th Judicial District Court (the “Court”) as Judge Johnson’s judicial assistant in May 1999, and was still employed at the court when Judge Johnson approved of Ms. Holliday’s holding another job with a federal governmental agency. Ms. Holliday was employed full-time by the United States Small Business Administration (the “SBA”) during the time period from October 17,2005 to February 15, 2006. Ms. Holliday gave the Court two weeks’ notice that she was terminating her employment with the court effective October 14, 2005. The resignation letter was dated October 3, 2005.

Ms. Holliday was rehired by the court as Judge Johnson’s judicial assistant approximately one week after the October 14, 2005 effective date of her resignation.

For the reasons stated herein, it is ordered that Judge Donald R. Johnson of the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana, be publicly censured. It is further ordered that Judge Johnson be ordered to reimburse and pay to the Commission the amount of $5,801.89 in hard costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of his case pursuant to Supreme Court Rule XXIII, Section 22.

VICTORY, J., dissents and would impose a more serious sanction.
click here to download the supreme courts ruling in a twenty-six page .pdf [91.3 kb]