Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Six-Month Supension of Disgraced Judge’s Lawyer

(CN) - The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended an attorney who deliberately misspelled the name of a federal judge filing for bankruptcy years before he would be thrown off the bench for corruption.

Claude C. Lightfoot of New Orleans was representing U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. and his wife, Carmella, in 2001 bankruptcy proceedings.

Lightfoot suggested misspelling the couple's name to avoid the "embarrassment" of having their bankruptcy appear in the weekly listing in the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper.

Though the Porteouses lived in Metairie, the filing also listed a temporary post office box in a different town. The eventual newspaper entry appeared as "G.T. Ortous and C.A. Ortous of Harvey."

Lightfoot later filed an amended bankruptcy petition with the correct information.

Nobody noticed until Porteous became the target of a federal investigation. The Office of Disciplinary Conduct learned about the bankruptcy situation and filed charges against Lightfoot, who admitted to two rules violations but denied having violated five other rules.

Lightfoot said he was not trying to defraud the Porteous creditors but merely sought to avoid adverse publicity.

The disciplinary board recommended a suspension, noting that this matter became part of Porteous' impeachment proceedings in the U.S. Senate.

The state Supreme Court agreed with the board that Lightfoot should be suspended for six months, with all but 30 days deferred.

"Respondent knowingly violated duties owed to his clients, the public, the legal system and the profession. His conduct caused potential injury to his clients and actual harm to the legal system and the profession," unsigned decision states.

Porteous, 65, is the eighth federal judge to be convicted by the U.S. Senate and removed from office through impeachment. He was convicted on four articles of impeachment by the Senate in December 2010 and barred from holding any federal office.

The Louisiana bench removed Porteous, who has since resigned from practicing law, last year.

House prosecutors said Porteous had a decades-long history of corruption on the bench. An apparent gambling and drinking problem led Porteous to begin accepting cash and other favors from attorneys and bail bondsmen who appeared before his court. Porteous, a Clinton appointee, also was accused of lying to Congress during his judicial confirmation.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.