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Suit contests Louisiana judicial investigation secrecy law

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana Supreme Court candidate is suing the state, challenging a law requiring secrecy in judicial investigations as unconstitutional.

Richard Ducote, a Republican lawyer from Covington, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Baton Rouge district court.

The Advocate reports that Ducote’s lawsuit argues the law Judiciary Commission members have used to defend the secrecy of their system violates the state constitution.

Ducote wants to strike down a statute that declares all documents and evidence filed with the Judiciary Commission and its proceedings are confidential. He argues the state constitution gives the Louisiana Supreme Court rulemaking authority over the commission and that should trump the state law.

“The Supreme Court has the authority to address many of the secrecy concerns in the Judiciary Commission that have been the result of so much media attention,” Ducote said Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s proper for the Supreme Court to hide behind this statute.”

The Advocate has reported the Judiciary Commission’s confidentiality rules have allowed Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes and other judges to hide investigations of misconduct from voters. Judges can agree to perform certain acts as a trade-off for the Judiciary Commission not filing public discipline recommendations with the Supreme Court.

A Supreme Court spokesman said Wednesday the court doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

State Rep. Jerome Zeringue, a Houma Republican, tried to amend the law at the center of Ducote’s lawsuit earlier this year. Zeringue’s proposal would have required the Judiciary Commission to make any actions from a case public. The measure failed on the House floor.

In his lawsuit, Ducote says he filed a Judiciary Commission complaint against a judge but is barred from discussing during his Supreme Court campaign because of the Judiciary Commission’s gag order for those involved in its investigations.

Ducote is one of four GOP contenders vying for the open Supreme Court seat on the Oct. 12 ballot. His lawsuit has been assigned to District Judge Richard “Chip” Moore.

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