According to a recent campaign finance disclosure published by the Louisiana Ethics Administration, on October 24, 2012, Jimmy Faircloth, the Alexandria-based attorney and the former executive counsel to Governor Bobby Jindal, donated $1,000 to Judge Tim Kelley.
Why is this significant? Quoting from The Times-Picayune (bold mine):
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent education overhaul had its first day in court Wednesday, with lawyers for and against the voucher program changes calling witnesses to the 19th Judicial Court in Baton Rouge. Even before the opening statements were made, presiding Judge Timothy Kelley said he was confident he could make a ruling on the overhaul’s constitutionality by the week’s end.
“I don’t anticipate the need for post-trial briefs. I anticipate that after you all make a presentation, I will be able to make a ruling on this,” he said briefly after court was called into session at 9:00 a.m.
You got that? Even before a single argument was made, Judge Kelley made it abundantly clear that, essentially, he’d already made up his mind.
Guess who represents the Jindal administration?
Jindal administration lawyer Jimmy Faircloth made the second opening statement, in which he said “the subject and wisdom of the policy is not before this court.”
On the constitutionality question, Faircloth said “we didn’t conjure anything with regard to procedure…This process was handled perfectly consistent within legislative history,” Faircloth added.
And there’s this:
Faircloth made the donation to Judge Kelley through his law firm, Faircloth Law Group LLC, and although his donation doesn’t likely violate any campaign finance or ethics laws, at the very least, it should raise some serious questions, particularly considering that Faircloth’s check was cashed only a month ago.
You can download the entire report here. Faircloth’s donation is listed on page ten.
A few months ago, Judge Kelley blocked an injunction against the voucher program, a decision that seems to have been based entirely on the testimony by Superintendent John White and Jimmy Faircloth, both of whom disingenuously argued that an injunction would have resulted in $3.4 billion in deficit spending. From Casey Michel at Talking Points Memo (bold mine):
A Louisiana judge won’t stop the state’s controversial school voucher systemfrom going into effect next month. District Judge Tim Kelley ruled that he did not have jurisdiction to provide the injunction sought by the voucher program’s opponents, citing a Louisiana law prohibiting injunctions that state officials claim will create a deficit.
Superintendent John White and Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater made just such a claim, saying that enacting an injunction on the voucher program, for which 8,000 students have already applied, would lead to a $3.4 billion hole in the state’s education budget.
The figure stems from the $3.4 billion Louisiana currently spends on state aid for school operations via the Minimum Foundation Program. Jimmy Faircloth, who represented the state during Tuesday’s hearing, said it was “unavoidable and factually inescapable” that the proposed injunction would lead to the ten-figure deficit. “It’s just indisputable,” he said, according to Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.
It is also worth noting: Judge Kelley is a benefactor of the Dunham School, a school that currently participates in the school voucher program. According to some reports, the school’s softball field was recently renamed in honor of the Kelly Family for their sustained financial contributions over the years.
And perhaps most notably, Judge Kelley is married to Angele Davis-Kelley, Governor Bobby Jindal’s former Commissioner of Administration, who currently serves as the CEO of the Davis Kelley Group, a consultancy that, among other things, claims to specialize in government affairs. The Davis Kelley Group appears to be housed in the middle of Baton Rouge:
Judge Kelley, just like Jimmy Faircloth once did, recently and unsuccessfully campaigned for Louisiana Supreme Court, even bringing out former Governor Mike Foster as a campaign surrogate. This ad was cut only a month ago:
Over the past 15 years, I have served as your District Court Judge. In this job, I have presided over nearly 600 criminal and civil trials – jury trials and bench trials. And I have presided in hundreds of appeals from agency rulings. As District Judge, I have heard and presided over some of the most complicated tax matters, medical malpractice cases, murder trials, drug cases, product liability cases, rape trials, successions, burglaries, property disputes, armed robberies and hundreds of others. I have sentenced people to serve life terms in prison. And yes, I have had to sentence one to death by lethal injection.All of this experience is important because on the Supreme Court, our Justices must and do hear and decide on all of these kinds of issues. These are difficult times, not only in Louisiana but across America. I firmly believe our courts are in
place not to make new laws, but to fairly and consistently apply those that are on the books. That is what I do each and every day in District Court. It is precisely what I will do if elected to the Louisiana Supreme Court.Justice cannot or should not be manipulated by powerful political or other interests. In all of our courts, but particularly in the Supreme Court, cases and decisions must be made based on one thing and one thing alone: the law. I know the law, as do many other judges and attorneys. And I also know how to apply it fairly in cases that affect the very lives and futures of people – real, everyday people.I am in this race for the Louisiana Supreme Court, not because I am the best politically connected candidate, but because I believe that I am the best qualified. I will work hard over the next two months to prove that to the voters and families of our District 5. On the Louisiana Supreme Court, the last stop for most cases in Louisiana, qualifications and hard work do matter.
Given all of this, which may not prove any impropriety but still, unquestionably, creates the appearance of impropriety, the impression, even if misguided, of a quid-pro-quo patronage system between Judge Kelley and current and former members of the Jindal administration, one of whom is his wife and the other is his wife’s former colleague, Jindal’s current attorney on voucher challenges and one of the judge’s top campaign contributors, it is astonishingly strident and somewhat alarming that neither Jindal nor the judge himself ever acknowledged these multiple conflicts and submitted a recusal.
Remember the “Gold Standard” of ethics that Governor Jindal championed?
Yeah, neither does he.