RULES AND OPERATING PROCEDURES

Louisiana Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee

 

I. Receipt of Complaints

The Office of the Judicial Administrator, Supreme Court of Louisiana, shall provide administrative support to the Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee. All complaints which are directed to the Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee concerning the campaign conduct of a candidate for judicial office should be forwarded to the following address:

Louisiana Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee

400 Royal Street

Suite 1190

New Orleans, LA 70130-8101

All complaints directed to the Oversight Committee shall be in writing, should specify the misconduct or ethical violation(s) complained of and the canon(s) allegedly violated, and should be signed by the complainant. A complaint form has been prepared and is available for use by persons who wish to file complaints with the Oversight Committee.

When a complaint requires the Committee to review an audio or video recording or a photograph, a CD, DVD, or link to the audio or video recording or photograph posted on the internet, shall be forwarded with the complaint. When a complaint requires the Committee to review a print advertisement, either the original advertisement or a legible photocopy thereof shall be forwarded with the complaint.[Amended July 9, 2003; amended effective July 1, 2008]

II. Preliminary Dismissal of Complaints

If a complaint does not allege facts that would constitute a violation of the canons which fall within the scope of the Oversight Committee's jurisdiction, as outlined in La. S. Ct. Rule XXXV, Section 3, the complaint may be dismissed by the Chair, without further review or investigation by the Oversight Committee. In addition, the Chair is authorized to dismiss any complaint, without further review or investigation by the Oversight Committee, when, in the opinion of the Chair, the complaint is frivolous, repetitive or harassing in nature.

Given the time constraints for reviewing complaints which allege campaign conduct violations, it is of the utmost importance that complainants provide evidentiary support for the allegations made in the complaint. Complaints which lack sufficient evidentiary support to allow the Committee to adequately assess whether clear and convincing evidence exists of a violation of one of the canons which falls within the Committee's oversight jurisdiction may be dismissed by the Chair, without further review by the Oversight Committee. [Amended July 9, 2003]

III. Complaints Which Fall Within Oversight Jurisdiction

If the complaint sets forth allegations of campaign misconduct which, if true, would fall within the Committee's oversight jurisdiction, and the complaint is not frivolous, repetitive or harassing in nature, staff shall promptly forward a copy of the complaint to Oversight Committee members by e-mail, facsimile, and/or United States mail. Following receipt of such a complaint, the Oversight Committee may seek from the complaining party such additional information as it deems necessary, within such time period as the Committee may designate, and may conduct such additional review and investigation as it deems necessary.

IV. Response from Respondent Candidate

If the complaint sets forth allegations of misconduct which, if true, would fall within the Committee's oversight jurisdiction, the complaint shall be forwarded to the respondent candidate by e-mail, facsimile, and/or United States certified mail, return receipt requested. The complaint shall be forwarded to the respondent candidate at the candidate's campaign headquarters and/or at the candidate's business address. If the complaint is received by the Committee at least two weeks prior to the primary or general election at issue, the respondent candidate shall be invited to file a response within three days, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. If the complaint falls within the two week period preceding the primary or general election at issue, the Committee may ask for an expedited response from the candidate, which response time shall be set forth in the transmittal notifying the candidate of the complaint.

Following receipt of a response from the candidate, or the expiration of the time period for responding, whichever occurs first, the Committee shall then determine whether or not a public statement should be issued. Complaints which are received within the last two weeks before the primary or general election at issue shall be reviewed and voted upon in as expeditious a fashion as the exigencies of the situation require. An affirmative vote of at least eight members of the Committee shall be required before a public statement may be issued. [Amended effective July 1, 2008]

If the Oversight Committee decides not to issue a public statement, the Oversight Committee shall dismiss the complaint and so advise the complainant. [Amended effective March 9, 2006]

V. Conduct Which is Not the Subject of a Formal, Signed Complaint

The Oversight Committee may review campaign conduct which comes to its attention from any individual member of the Committee or from any other source, including anonymous complaints and news reports. An anonymous complaint may not be reviewed or investigated unless it states facts, not mere conclusions, that can be independently verified. An affirmative vote of at least ten Committee members shall be required before the Committee may conduct additional review and investigation of conduct which is not the subject of a written complaint, or conduct which comes to its attention from an anonymous source.

If the Oversight Committee votes to conduct additional review and investigation of conduct which is not the subject of a formal, signed complaint, the respondent shall be so notified and the matter shall proceed in accordance with Section IV, above.

VI. Form of Public Statements

Public statements shall be issued by the Chair of the Oversight Committee, on behalf of the Committee. Any such public statement shall set forth the nature of the complaint and/or conduct which resulted in the issuance of a public statement, and the Committee's opinion as to the canon or canons which have been violated. In the event a public statement is issued, the complaint which precipitated the public statement shall become a matter of public record.

No Committee member or staffperson other than the Chair may make contact with the media, issue a public statement on behalf of the Committee, or respond to contacts with the media unless so authorized by the Committee.

The Chair may forward a public statement to any media outlet deemed appropriate. [Amended July 9, 2003]

VII. Meetings

The Committee may schedule meetings at such times and places as it deems convenient and appropriate. Committee members may attend such meetings in person, or by telephone or video conference.

VIII. Confidentiality

Until such time as the Oversight Committee decides to issue a public statement, the Committee or its Chair decides to dismiss the complaint, or the respondent waives confidentiality, whichever occurs sooner, the complaint and response, if any, are confidential. After a decision is made to dismiss a complaint or issue a public statement, or the respondent waives confidentiality, the complaint, response, and Committee decision (if any) shall be matters of public record. Committee investigatory and deliberation materials shall remain confidential. [Amended effective March 9, 2006]

Notwithstanding the confidentiality provisions of La. S. Ct. Rule XXXV and these rules, any member of the Committee, or a designee authorized by the Committee, in response to a press or citizen inquiry regarding particular campaign conduct, may only explain the Court and Oversight Committee rules and procedures concerning campaign oversight, the scope of the Committee's oversight jurisdiction, the stated preference for informally resolving disputes involving campaign conduct, and the requirements which must be met before a public statement can be issued.

Notwithstanding the confidentiality provisions of La. S. Ct. Rule XXXV and these rules, the Committee may disclose the status and/or disposition of a complaint or investigation if:

(1) Either the complainant or the respondent candidate, or any person or entity subject to the direction and control of the candidate or complainant, has stated publicly that a complaint has been or will be filed;

(2) The fact that a complaint has been filed, or will be filed, or that an investigation is ongoing, becomes generally known to the public; or

(3) When sources other than complainant or candidate cause notoriety concerning a complaint or investigation, and the Committee decides that the best interests of the complainant or candidate would be served if disclosure were made of the status and/or disposition of a complaint or investigation.

IX. Recusal

Committee members shall recuse themselves in any campaign oversight matter in which recusal would be required of a judge by law or rule of the Supreme Court.

X. Informal Resolution
The Committee shall make reasonable attempts to informally resolve disputes involving campaign conduct in lieu of issuing a public statement. Such informal action and resolution may include, but is not limited to, procuring an agreement from the respondent candidate to withdraw an advertisement, to retract or clarify a campaign statement, or such other informal disposition as may be deemed appropriate.


When a respondent candidate expresses a willingness to consider an informal resolution, the Chair, with the approval of a majority of the Committee members, may negotiate and finalize a written informal resolution to the complaint.


Any written informal resolution which is agreed to by the respondent candidate and the Chair, as well as the underlying complaint and response, shall be matters of public record.  [Repealed and reenacted effective March 9, 2006; Amended effective July 1, 2008]

XI. Educational and Informational Outreach

The Oversight Committee may contact the Secretary of State before, during and after the qualifying period to ascertain the names and addresses of candidates for judicial office. The Oversight Committee may then mail instructional campaign materials (including Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct) to the candidates and advise them of upcoming educational seminars.

In furtherance of its educational role, the Committee and its members may offer informal, non-binding advice and consultation to judges and candidates concerning any Canon of the Code of Judicial Conduct, or concerning judicial campaign conduct in general, at educational seminars. At such educational seminars, Oversight Committee members and staff should not provide advisory opinions in response to questions or inquiries about the propriety of particular campaign conduct if Committee members and staff know the question or inquiry concerns a matter which is, or may be, the subject of a formal complaint.

The Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee shall also serve as an informational resource for judicial candidates. In this role, Oversight Committee members and staff may offer informal, non-binding advice and consultation to judges and candidates concerning inquiries that do not require members and staff to provide individual advisory opinions concerning particular campaign conduct that is, or may be, the subject of a formal complaint.

Oversight Committee members and staff shall use reasonable diligence to desist from providing individual advisory opinions regarding the propriety of campaign conduct that is, or may be, the subject of a formal complaint. When Oversight Committee members and staff are verbally asked about the propriety of particular campaign conduct that is, or may be, the subject of a formal complaint, they may, without providing an individual advisory opinion directed to the propriety of the conduct, discuss generally the Canons that fall within the Committee's oversight jurisdiction, other Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and advise the inquiring party of the opportunity to file a complaint with the Oversight Committee and/or with the Judiciary Commission.

In its role as a resource for judicial candidates, the Oversight Committee may review and provide informal advice and consultation concerning campaign advertisements and materials to be used by a judicial candidate, when asked to undertake such a review by the candidate who is considering using the campaign materials. The Chair shall designate a three-member subcommittee or subcommittees, consisting of one judge, one lawyer, and one citizen, to respond to requests to review campaign materials which are made by the candidate who is considering using the materials. Any informal advices which are offered by a three-person subcommittee are not binding on the en banc Committee, if the reviewed materials thereafter become the subject of a formal complaint. The subject matter of any such request for informal advice and consultation, and the subcommittee's response, is confidential.

XII. Referral to Judiciary Commission

The Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee has the right, as any citizen would, of referring matters to the Judiciary Commission. In keeping with the confidentiality restrictions which govern the activities and operations of the Judiciary Commission, the Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee shall not divulge any matters it refers to the Judiciary Commission. An affirmative vote of ten Oversight Committee members shall be required to refer a matter to the Judiciary Commission.

XIII. Campaign Conduct Acknowledgment

In the event the Oversight Committee creates, and the Court approves, the use of an Acknowledgment regarding Canon 7 of the Code, the Oversight Committee may ask judicial candidates to voluntarily sign such an Acknowledgment. Thereafter, the Oversight Committee may produce for public inspection a signed Acknowledgment when asked to do so. If the Committee is asked to produce an Acknowledgment that does not exist, or is not in its custody, the Oversight Committee shall respond by noting that no such signed Acknowledgment is in its custody.

XIV. Vice-Chair

The Court may designate a lawyer or judge member to serve as Vice-Chair who shall act for the Chair when the Chair is absent or otherwise unable to perform his/her duties.

XV. Closure of Files

When a matter before the Oversight Committee has been closed or otherwise terminated, each member of the Oversight Committee shall destroy his or her file on that matter.  [Amended July 9, 2003]