On June 15, Justice of the Peace Janice Jones of Ward 1, Caldwell Parish in Louisiana received an admonishment from the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana. This admonishment was a result of the agreement between Jones and the Commission to establish a Deferred Recommendation of Discipline Agreement. The purpose of this agreement was to address an ongoing disciplinary action against Jones, which was initiated due to her engagement in unethical conduct.

The case is styled “In the Matter of Justice of the Peace Janice Jones,” and was brought by the Judiciary Commission, case no. 0391.

The charges cited Jones’ violation of Canons 1, 2A, 3A(1), 3A(3), and 3A(10) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.

According to the court document, a Notice of Hearing was filed by the Commission on May 23, 2023, containing allegations of misconduct against Jones. The allegations include failure to uphold a high standard of conduct to maintain the integrity and independence of the judiciary, non-compliance with the law, and lack of competence. It was further alleged that Jones engaged in an ex parte communication, and made promises inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of office.

The specific incident mentioned in the Notice of Hearing involves a lawsuit filed by Fluitt Construction against Tonya Henson in Jones’ court for work done to Henson’s house due to hurricane damages.

The filing states:

“Ms. Henson did not pay the judgment but asked for a re-trial. First, Ms. Henson called and/or texted you, Justice of the Peace Janice Jones, about a re-trial. Then, on March 16, 2021, Ms. Henson came to your home and filed a handwritten request that “the court remove the judgment… that is set to become a lien on 3/18/21.” You, Justice of the Peace Janice Jones, charged Ms. Henson $140.00 for this pleading. On Ms. Henson’s receipt for the $140 filing fee, you labeled it as a “Cash payment for ‘appeal/retrial’ of judgment in case with Mr. Fluitt Construction… Your filing fee of $140 exceeded the amount that a justice of the peace may demand for a motion for new trial or a motion for appeal pursuant to Louisiana R.S. 13:2590(A).”

The filing continues:

“On March 18, 2021, you, Justice of the Peace Janice Jones, went to Ms. Henson’s home, but instead of simply picking up her new Motion for a New Trial, you engaged in an extensive and improper ex parte conversation with Ms. Henson about the case, the quality of Fluitt Construction’s work, the evidence, such as invoices, and Mr. Fluitt’s lack of a contractor’s license. Ms. Henson was clearly trying to influence your decision on her Motion for a New Trial. You also told Ms. Henson that you had engaged in an ex parte conversation with Mr. Fluitt that day at his home and asked him for copies of invoices.”

The filing further alleges:

“Because Ms. Henson continued to resist the idea of an appeal of the judgment to the district court, you, Justice of the Peace Janice Jones, responded: “Well, I will file for a re-trial, I will amend it.” This and other statements by you led Ms. Henson to believe you were granting the Motion for New Trial and eventually would enter a new judgment in her favor.”

In response to the Notice of Hearing, Jones and the Commission agreed to defer the recommendation of discipline for Jones’ abovementioned conduct.

The agreement specifies the terms and conditions, including Justice Jones admitting that her conduct violated certain canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Louisiana Constitution. It also requires Justice Jones to obtain additional training in judicial ethics and civil procedure, comply with laws governing trial settings and filing fees, and refrain from engaging in ex parte communications or commitments.

The agreement states that if Justice Jones fails to comply with the stipulations, default provisions will be activated, and the Notice of Hearing will be reactivated. The agreement also establishes a consent discipline of a 30-day suspension without pay by the Louisiana Supreme Court in the event of a default.

Justice Janice Jones sits as the Justice of the Peace Ward, Caldwell Parish. Her courtroom is at 158 Lil Duck Lane, Columbia, Louisiana, and can be reached at 318-649-7622.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.