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Campaign Oversight Committee: Cox, Caraway violated code of conduct

by Minden Press-Herald

The campaigns of both judges vying for the Second District, Division C, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, have violated guidelines of running ethical campaigns.

Findings issued by the Louisiana Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee found incumbent Judge Jay Caraway and opponent Judge Jeff Cox have violated Canon 7A(9) of the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct.

The rule states a judge or judicial candidate shall not “knowingly make, or cause to be made, a false statement concerning the identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent.”

The oversight committee has no enforcement of disciplinary power, but has released its findings to the public.

One complaint concerns a statement posted to Judge Caraway’s campaign committee Facebook page, “Jeff Cox Record,” which says, “Jeff Cox spent $33,500 to help elect Hillary Clinton.”

The statement is based on a ballot produced by the Webster United Minority Voter’s League, which endorses Hillary Clinton and Judge Cox, among others.

Judge Cox’s appearance on this ballot with other candidates for public office does not constitute an endorsement by Judge Cox of the candidates with which he appears. As such, the Committee believes the statement at issue is false and in violation the code of conduct.

A complaint against Cox concerns a mailer that was sent out on behalf of Judge Cox by his campaign committee. The mailer states, “Judge Cox has ruled on over 30,000 cases and 99 percent of those decisions stand.” The Committee believes this statement is in violation because implies that Judge Cox has made over 30,000 appealable rulings which have been reviewed and upheld by a higher court.

A second complaint against Cox’s campaign was filed regarding a mailer sent out on behalf of Judge Cox by his campaign misrepresents the facts of a 2014 case, State v. Montgomery, which involved the bail amount for a defendant arrested for aggravated rape.

The mailer identified the defendant as a “suspected murderer” and charges that Judge Caraway “agreed to reverse the district court bond decision, allowing [the defendant] to go free.”

The defendant was not indicted for principal manslaughter until May 15, 2014.
One month before the defendant’s indictment of principal manslaughter, Judge Caraway, as a member of a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit, reduced the defendant’s bail obligation from $500,000 to $100,000 on the charge of aggravated rape.

The Louisiana Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee consists of 15 members appointed by the Supreme Court of Louisiana. If eight members of the Oversight Committee decide clear and convincing evidence exists of a violation of one of these ten provisions, the Committee is authorized to issue a public statement concerning the campaign conduct. The Oversight Committee has no enforcement or disciplinary power.

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