NOLA Judges' Pricey CLE Trips on Court's Dime: Greedy or All Good?
Few would argue that Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements are important for judges and attorneys alike. And even if they're not, if those of us who are members of the bar (but not on the bench) have to do them, well, everyone should suffer the misery.
Except, not all CLEs are miserable. Conferences can be fun. Really, really fun if the descriptions of these extravagant CLE trips that New Orleans judges frequent are any indication: a Panama City (Panama, not Florida) resort, trips to the Big Apple, a Montana resort, and more.
Of course, they need their CLEs. So are they taking this little employee perk a little too far?
Juror Services? Transcripts? RESORT VACATION!
If you want to read the full details of the Lifestyles of the Robed and Shameless, we'd definitely tell you to hit up The Times-Picayune's recap of the Criminal District Court judges' expenditures. Our personal favorite was Judge Frank Marullo's July 2013 trip to Panama, where he opted for a more expensive ocean-view room; here is what the newspaper had to say about the conference agenda:
That trip offered day and nighttime leisure activities for those attending, including sightseeing excursions, cocktail hours on party buses, golf tournaments, a Black & White gala and a Karaoke night, according to the agenda Marullo submitted when seeking reimbursement. None of the seminars at the conference went past noon, giving attendees the afternoon off before the nighttime events began. The after-hours activities are optional to attend, and it's not clear whether Marullo went to any of the nighttime excursions.
The previous month, he attended two conferences, one at a resort in Florida, and another in Montana.
Did They Do Anything Wrong?
It's important to note that none of these judges broke the rules, which require 12.5 CLE credits and allow for travel expense reimbursements of up to $15,000 per year. But many question the propriety of lavish trips to CLE conferences when the court's budget is being slashed and cases are backlogged. Others wonder why they don't just do their CLEs in-town like everyone else.
Then again, ask yourself this: If your employer offered you up to $15,000 in free travel to conferences each year, wouldn't you take advantage of it?
Interestingly, the Times-Picayune also listed the judges' efficiency rankings: Judge Karen Herman, who only billed for a single in-town CLE event, was ranked as the most efficient. Then again, Judge Julian Parker, who only recorded a single, cheap out-of-town trip, was ranked as the least efficient. Those at the top of the spending chart, including Judge Marullo, were near the bottom of the efficiency chart.
And none of this compares to an earlier 2013 report by New Orleans' WVUE-TV of a judge who was days away from retirement and took that same trip to Panama because, you know, he wanted to do CLEs for his last 10 days on the traffic court bench.
Let's Hear Your Thoughts
Of course, we always like to hear from you on Twitter (@FindLawLP), but we're also going to toss a simple poll at you: All Greedy, or All Good?
- Sen. Coburn Probing Lavish Judicial Conferences (FindLaw's U.S. Eleventh Circuit Blog)
- 11th Cir Judicial Conference: Sequester? Budget Cuts? GOLF! (FindLaw's U.S. Eleventh Circuit Blog)
- 6th Circuit Makes Right Call in Cancelling Judicial Conference (FindLaw's U.S. Sixth Circuit Blog)