Monday, September 10, 2007

Judicial Shenanigans

Should Judge Ginger Berrigan Be Censured?
In July, 2000, Judge Ginger Berrigan spent three weeks in Greece teaching a one-credit course for Tulane University as part of a summer study program offered by the School of Law [1]. This means that while Tulane was arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court that Judge Berrigan was no longer associated with the university [2], she was actively engaged in developing a curriculum and making arrangements with Tulane administrators and other Law School faculty. Tulane paid Judge Berrigan $5,500 for this teaching commitment [3].

The prestige and honor of this invited professorship is suggested by the stature of some of its recipients. They include U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia (1987, 1991, 1997, 2001, 2004) [4], Harry Blackmun (1992), William Rehnquist (1995, 1997, 2004), and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1999, 2002) [5, 6].

Following an unusual postponement of the January 18, 2000 trial date, Judge Berrigan rescheduled Bernofsky's trial against Tulane University for retaliation and defamation in her Court for May 15, 2000 and repeatedly asserted that her association with the defendant was no reason why she should be recused from this case. One month before trial, on April 18, 2000, she granted Tulane's Motion for Summary Judgment.
[click here for more]

* * * *

“Corruption in the judiciary is worse than corruption in any other branch of government.”

Quoted from a statement issued by Judge Ginger Berrigan during her sentencing of another corrupt judge, Ronald Bodenheimer. Reference
  • Manuel Torres, "Bodenheimer gets 46 months in prison; Sentence exceeds what prosecutors had requested," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, April 29, 2004, p. A-1.


* * * *

Sheriff got dirt on judge in 1999

Information was forwarded to FBI

08/14/02

By Manuel Torres
West Bank bureau/The Times-Picayune

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee said Tuesday that while Judge Ronald Bodenheimer was working as a confidential informant for his office in several cases in late 1999, the narcotics division had begun collecting "troubling" information about the judge and was forwarding it to the FBI.

Declining to give details, Lee said narcotics agents gathered information about Bodenheimer "which was troubling to me" as early as September 1999, a month before the judge led deputies to a late-night Metairie drug bust at which Bodenheimer showed up at the scene but was not arrested.

Lee's comments are the first indication that federal investigators received reports about Bodenheimer nearly six months after his March 1999 election to the 24th Judicial District Court and may have started zeroing in on the judge in an investigation that has evolved into a wider probe of corruption at the Gretna courthouse.

Lee, who has been reluctant to comment on the investigation, said he was speaking out to explain narcotics agents' actions during the Oct. 28, 1999, drug raid that led to the arrest of Joe Danny Perez and five others. Lee said Bodenheimer did not receive special treatment that night and was not made a confidential informant after the fact. He said the FBI "knew all along what we were doing," and that when Bodenheimer showed up at the raid, deputies were told to arrest him if he was carrying any drugs.

"The supervisor told (agents): �Here's how we're going to handle this. If there are drugs in Judge Bodenheimer's car, he should be arrested,' " Lee said. "We searched his car, there were no drugs, and he was released."

Bodenheimer was arrested by federal authorities in June and indicted in July for allegedly conspiring to plant the painkiller OxyContin in the truck of a man who had complained of drug activity and zoning violations at the judge's Venetian Isles marina. The judge, who is suspended with pay, has pleaded innocent, and a trial has been set for September.

Perez pleaded guilty in federal court last month to a drug charge stemming from the October 1999 raid and has agreed to detail for federal investigators how a "close friend in the law enforcement community" aided him in his drug-smuggling operations. Neither Perez nor federal officials have said if he is referring to Bodenheimer. Through his attorney, Bodenheimer has denied any drug involvement with Perez or anyone else.

Flanked by the highest-ranking officers in his narcotics division Tuesday, Lee said the information about Bodenheimer that his narcotics agents gathered in September 1999 was then shared with the FBI's Integrity Unit, which he said expressed interest in investigating the judge.

Lee said that was the first of several reports his office sent the FBI, and that he and Jefferson District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. met following the 1999 raid on Perez's business and chose to let federal officials investigate instead of starting a formal investigation themselves. Lee said he was concerned about letting a large number of his agents know the judge was under investigation and about possible leaks, as have occurred with the federal probe since Bodenheimer's arrest.

"Everything we got was sent to the FBI," Lee said.

Connick was not available for comment Tuesday. But Assistant District Attorney Steve Wimberly confirmed that both offices agreed to let the FBI investigate Bodenheimer.

"We were in total agreement that it needed to go to the FBI," Wimberly said.

FBI spokesman Sheila Thorne deferred comments to the U.S. attorney's office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann said "it would not be appropriate" to comment because of the pending Bodenheimer trial.

Lee declined to say how many cases Bodenheimer served in as a confidential informant, but he said the judge was an informant before the drug raid in October 1999, when Bodenheimer told Capt. Kenneth Soutullo of the Jefferson Sheriff's Office that Perez would be receiving a large shipment of marijuana, according to a narcotics report. The report indicates that a confidential informant had tipped officials of Perez's drug trafficking in July 1998, but Lee would not say Tuesday whether that informant was Bodenheimer.

Lee said narcotics agents assigned to the Perez case did not know that Bodenheimer was a confidential informant. When the judge drove up to Perez's business at 3000 Lime St. the night of the raid, they called a supervisor and asked for guidance. Following instructions, they stopped Bodenheimer's Ford Explorer, read him his Miranda rights and searched the vehicle, then released him.

Bodenheimer's role in the raid became public only last month, when prosecutors told Perez's defense attorneys about it. But on Tuesday, Lee and other officials rejected questions about whether naming Bodenheimer as an informant was a way to protect the judge.

"The key ingredient here is that the judge was not named an informant after the fact. That was not the case," Deputy Chief Newell Norman said.

Bodenheimer eventually approached Lee about the 1999 raid two years later, the sheriff said. Lee said Bodenheimer asked him to "confirm or deny information he has learned about himself," but the sheriff declined to give details.

"It's all in one of the reports we sent to the FBI," Lee said.

. . . . . . .

Manuel Torres can be reached at mtorres@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3785.

© The Times-Picayune. Used with permission.

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