- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

RACELAND, La. (AP) - A Lafourche Parish justice of the peace who was suspended for mishandling a claim is appealing the state Supreme Court’s decision.

In a decision released May 23, the Supreme Court ruled Mary Foret of Raceland violated judicial code and state law by engaging in improper communications and investigations, failing to recuse herself and delegating her judicial duties to Constable Dwain LeBouef.

The Daily Comet reported (http://bit.ly/1slbKxO) the 79-year-old Foret was suspended without pay for two months.

Foret’s rehearing request charges the punishment is “unduly harsh.”

It’s unclear when the Supreme Court might decide whether to rehear the case.

Foret wants the suspension reduced to one month, claiming she didn’t gain anything from the misconduct.

Foret said her husband is bed-ridden following a stroke. The cost of his care would exceed $2,700 over the two months, Foret claims, an amount that would normally be covered by insurance. During her suspension, Foret estimates she’ll lose up to $2,200 in income.

Lafourche resident Monica Cieslak said she was treated similarly by Foret and LeBouef earlier this year in a case involving rent.

Cieslak said her attorney instructed her not to speak unless he was present. According to Cieslak, her attorney was delayed the day of the case and LeBouef began to question her and threatened to arrest her when she didn’t respond.

Foret was just “walking around, piddling around,” she said.

“She had no knowledge of what we were saying or doing or even about the case. She just let (LeBouef) handle it,” Cieslak said.

Foret confirmed findings of a judicial commission that investigated the charges but said she didn’t understand why the actions improper, according to the judicial commission report to the Supreme Court.

Thibodaux resident Ryan Hutchinson said the Supreme Court’s decision hurts Lafourche residents.

“This is a major disruption to people who scheduled weddings and eviction court cases,” Hutchinson said in a letter to the Daily Comet. “Once these things are scheduled, it is imperative that they are carried out as planned. Additionally we will have to deal with an unknown judge we do not know and did not vote for.”

Hutchinson suggested the Supreme Court require Foret to undergo training to correct procedural errors.

Though Foret has no other ethical violations in her 23 years as a justice of the peace, the Supreme Court ruling said she had often allowed LeBouef to question witnesses in criminal hearings.

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Information from: Daily Comet, http://www.dailycomet.com

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