Federal Judges, G. Thomas Porteous, Judge of the Day, Legal Ethics

Judge of the Day: G. Thomas Porteous Jr.

oil rig big ship.jpgJudge Thomas Porteous Jr., of the Eastern District of Louisiana, is no stranger to bad publicity. We’ve written about this New Orleans judge before (see item 2(b)).
Well, Judge Porteous’s exploits continue. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

In 2003, a seaman named Robert Hanna sued his employer, an offshore drilling company, after stairs on one of its ships collapsed beneath him and dropped him several feet to the floor.

His case against the Rowan Companies went to trial in U.S. District Court in New Orleans in August 2005. Within two days, attorneys announced they had agreed to a settlement, the judge dismissed the jury and everyone appeared to walk away satisfied.

What Hanna might not have known, however, is that while his personal injury suit was pending, well before trial began, Rowan treated the presiding judge, Thomas Porteous Jr., to a $1,000 hunting trip.

This calls to mind Justice Antonin Scalia’s controversial duck-hunting trip with Vice-President Dick Cheney. What is up with all these federal judges going hunting with litigants?
Now, let’s not overreact. The Times-Picayune puts the latest allegations in context:

There is no evidence that Porteous showed Rowan favorable treatment in court. Nor is the trip known to be a subject of the lengthy criminal investigation into the judge’s conduct, including a personal bankruptcy case he and his wife filed in 2001, under false names; his handling of a hospital suit involving several of his friends; and his relationship with former bail bonds magnate Louis Marcotte III, who pleaded guilty to corrupting two state judges at the Gretna court, where Porteous was a jurist until 1994.

In other words: “Sure, this looks bad. But hey, the judge has done worse stuff before!”
The article then quotes a bunch of legal ethics experts who opine that it probably wasn’t a great idea for Judge Porteous to accept a free hunting trip from a litigant appearing before him. We won’t bother excerpting them here — anyone who’s passed the MPRE could tell you that.
Company Facing Suit Took Judge Hunting [New Orleans Times Picayune]
UTR News and Views: August 23, 2004 [Underneath Their Robes]
G. Thomas Porteous Jr. [FJC]

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