New Orleans Juvenile Court Judge Yvonne Hughes will appear before the Louisiana Supreme Court March 2 to face charges that could lead to her removal from the bench. The New Orleans Times-Picayune says Hughes, who took office in January 2001, has been suspended with pay since February 2003 on the recommendation of the state Judiciary Commission. On Dec. 12, the panel said Hughes was unfit and asked the Supreme Court to remove her.
The commission of lawyers, judges, and laypersons found Hughes guilty of improper practices, ranging from holding court by phone and failing to issue timely judgments, to hiring felons to work in her court and authorizing release from jail of more than 900 people arrested on municipal and traffic charges.
Hughes contended that she has been a good judge. “I didn’t abuse my power,” Hughes said. “I had the interest of the children at heart.” Responding to the charge that she relesed people who violated city ordinances, Hughes said, “There is no example of one case in which I exercised poor judging,” she said.
The commission cited prosecutors’ complaints that Hughes would refer juveniles arrested for violent offenses like armed robbery and rape to a mediation process that did not require that they be detained. In so doing, Hughes denied the state its right to 72 hours to decide whether to file charges against the young defendants.
During her suspension, Hughes has collected her $106,000 salary.