Judging the facts
To the Editor:
I was very disheartened to read the inaccurate report in "Bouquets & Brickbats" in your Aug. 14 issue that my client, Judge Charles Jones, "punched one judge in the face." I have always believed that your publication took the time to learn the facts before publishing a story or expressing an opinion. To set the record straight, page 24, paragraph C9 of the Judiciary Commission's conclusions, which were made available to the press, explicitly states, "The evidence was not clear and convincing that Judge Jones actually landed a punch on Judge Plotkin's body during the fight or after Judge Plotkin lay on the floor of the conference room, but the evidence is clear and convincing both judges sustained minor injuries as a result of the scuffle."
Without a doubt, a physical altercation between judges is inappropriate, even when there is not evidence that any punches landed on either judge. Jones has consistently expressed regret over having become involved in such an incident and deep sorrow about the embarrassment it has inflicted upon the Court of Appeal. He has even remained silent in the face of the outrageous comment by Sen. John Hainkel that he should have been shot, a remark for which Hainkel was never taken to task.
The Judiciary Commission's recommendation in this matter raises several issues that transcend the attention-grabbing scuffle and merit public discourse. Disparity in discipline is one. The commission's prosecutor chose to initiate proceedings against Jones, who admittedly used profanity and participated in a physical altercation, while taking no action against the other judge involved, who admitted under oath that he, too, used profanity and that he "approached" Jones immediately prior to the argument becoming physical. The commission concluded that this approach was "very close" (emphasis by the commission) to Jones, causing him to exclaim, "Get out of my face." By law, every person, including a judge, has the right to defend against an angry invasion of his personal space.
More profoundly disturbing is the fact that the epicenter of the incident -- the noticeable absence of minority attorneys on the Court's Central Staff -- has received no scrutiny whatsoever despite the fact that Chief Judge Byrnes is reported in the Aug. 9 issue of The Times-Picayune as having acknowledged that, prior to this incident, there may have been a problem with the court's hiring practices.
Finally, conscience compels each of us to consider what would have been the greater evil for Jones: to recognize an injustice and unintentionally lose his temper while persisting with his longstanding effort to rectify the injustice or to close his eyes to the injustice to insure he would not risk losing judicial temperament.
Sheila C. Myers
Attorney for Judge Charles R. Jones
subsidize indigenous art
To the Editor:
In your Commentary of July 31, "Keeping 'Louis' in Louisiana", it is lamented that "local government needs to take a more active role in embracing and helping the music industry." The City Council can readily revise its own One-Percent-for-Art ordinance to redefine "public art" in New Orleans as jazz music. No one who really matters in art here would object. Who knows? In channeling these existing public funds to the real local and unique public art instead of continuing to use them to subsidize the arts phonies and their cult of the mediocre in visual art, maybe serious art could catch a break in New Orleans. That's a big maybe. Which usage of these available public funds would contribute the greatest return to tourism? Subsidized indigenous entertainment or more self-serving, arts-council style, subsidized, vacuous visual art that no one really wants or cares about anyway?
Frederich Nicholas Trenchard
To the Editor:
Re: "Coal Warriors" from the Aug. 14 Gambit. Not only is Sen. John Breaux at the center of President Bush's attempts to roll back an important part of the clean air act in the name of our "energy crisis," he is also leading the charge to open the Arctic Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling. The refuge represents the final 5 percent of the northern Alaska coast that remains protected from oil and gas development. To despoil this area for a six-month supply of oil (U.S. Geological Survey estimates) that would take 10 years to get on-line is ludicrous.
As your article points out, Breaux is used to doing the heavy lifting for polluting industries in Louisiana and across the country, so his support for drilling in the refuge is no surprise. What is more disturbing is that Sen. Mary Landrieu, whose voting record is far more environmentally conscious than her counterpart, has recently changed her position and has come out in favor of oil drilling, falling for the industry argument that the development "footprint" will be small and manageable. The oil fields in the Arctic Refuge are thought to be far more diffuse and spread out than those of the large Prudhoe Bay field, necessitating more roads, pipelines and oil well heads. Direction drilling is only able to do so much.
We hope that Landrieu will not follow the lead of Congressman William Jefferson, who went from Arctic champion to oil champion with his votes against protecting the Arctic Refuge, against increased fuel efficiency for SUVs and light trucks, and for an energy plan that is dirty, dangerous and doesn't deliver for consumers.
Gulf States organizer, United States Public Interest Research Group