Panel Rejects Bid To Remove Judges From Mayor-Elect's Case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana appellate court has rejected Attorney General Jeff Landry's attempt to remove New Orleans judges from issues involving his investigation of Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell.

Landry said Wednesday his office would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Cantrell is a City Council member who succeeds term-limited Mayor Mitch Landrieu next spring after she won 60 percent of the vote. Her opponent in a November runoff, former municipal Judge Desiree Charbonnet, accused her of misusing her city credit card for personal and political expenses. Cantrell denied the allegation, and has asked state Judge Laurie White to throw out a subpoena of her personal banking records.

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White had refused to recuse herself or other criminal court judges in New Orleans from the case. A state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal panel rejected an appeal from Landry's office.

Among arguments for removing the New Orleans criminal court judges included the fact that Cantrell, currently a City Council member, will have a major role in funding the courts. Landry's office also noted that Cantrell's father-in-law is a magistrate judge at the court.

The New Orleans-based appellate panel voted 2-1 to reject the appeal. Judges Daniel Dysart and Roland Belsome said there was "no abuse of discretion" in White's decision. Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, stressing the importance of public confidence in the judiciary, dissented "out of an abundance of caution."

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White has scheduled a Jan. 3 hearing on a motion by Cantrell's attorney to throw out the subpoena of Cantrell's personal financial records.

During the campaign Cantrell was critical of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, a Charbonnet supporter, after he publicly said he had received a criminal complaint about Cantrell's credit card use, which he forwarded to Landry's office. Cantrell, Cannizzaro and Charbonnet are Democrats. Landry is a Republican.

-By Kevin McGill, Associated Press

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