No Ethical Violation But Orleans Parish Judge Ordered to Reimburse

Respondent was elected to serve as an Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge in 2003. In January 2012, the Judiciary Commission initiated an investigation into the practice of all Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges receiving extra insurance benefits paid through the court’s judicial expense fund (“JEF”). The Commission found that from 2006 to 2011, the JEF made payments on numerous primary and supplemental insurance policies covering Respondent, including long-term care policies, life insurance policies, critical illness, accidental death and dismemberment, cancer, heart, and ICU coverages. The supplemental policies included an insurance reimbursement program known as “Exec-U-Care,” which reimbursed beneficiaries for all co-payments and out-of-pocket health expenses. The Commission approved a formal charge against Respondent alleging that participation in these programs and receiving these benefits was a violation of various canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission recommended that Respondent be publicly censured, ordered to reimburse the JEF in the amount of $57,359.96, and ordered to reimburse the Commission for $8,150.24 in costs.

On review by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Court concluded that the Commission failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent’s participation in the supplemental insurance programs rose to a level of sanctionable conduct under the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Supreme Court noted that use of JEF funds to purchase long-term health insurance plans was authorized by law. Although La. R.S. 13:691 (the judicial parity statute) did not authorize life insurance policies and the “Exec-U-Care” program, the fact that so many judges had benefited from the program made it “patently unfair” to “demonize” one particular judge. In the end, Respondent was ordered to pay the JEF $10,002.58 in out-of-pocket reimbursements received over the years from the “Exec-U-Care” program.

In Re: Judge Darryl A. Derbigny