Curatorship, Recusals & Public Office by Timothy Gates, Correspondent

While last week gave a brief overview of the District Attorney Debate hosted by Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, this week will explore a few specific issues raised, particularly that of curatorships and recusals.  A curatorship refers to the authority of the court to administer the property of an individual unable to take care of their own estate and affairs, for any variety of reasons.  A recusal is a judicial safeguard in which a judge or prosecutor is removed (recused) from a legal case due to a conflict of interest.

During the debate, Brian Trainor was asked by Roy Burns about his efforts in achieving accountability and transparency during his eight years as an Assistant D.A. with regard to work release programs, nepotism and other abuses of office. Trainor responded that he was not aware of any violation of policy or law, otherwise it would have been reported.

Burns then pointed out that curatorships are an abuse, judicial appointments in which the appointee benefits financially, while holding a public office. Trainor stated that if the judge appoints a local attorney to represent someone in a case, they represent them. This answer seems simple, but it doesn’t address the question of the process being abused in a partial manner.

With regard to judicial and prosecutorial recusal, Trainor stated that recusals should only be offered in the furtherance of justice. Alan Black responded that recusals are overused, explaining that they are mandatory when the reasons exist. The suggestion of abuse in relation to the practice is that recusal is not offered when obvious conflicts exist, but is taken when no conflict exists, in which the recused has the opportunity to operate through a private practice while also serving the public office.

The subject of recusal has surfaced in the 22nd Judicial District Family Court Judge’s race between Judge Dawn Amacker and Candidate Nanine McCool, as reported by The Advocate, “St. Tammany school arrest raises more questions about dual roles of Walter Reed’s assistant.” The story details several conflicts of interest throughout the case, exemplifying the problems in this type of abuse of office. Find it online at

If mechanisms used to provide a speedy and impartial judicial process to the public are instead used to judicial or prosecutorial benefit at the expense of the public, as the referenced story indicates, that needs to change. Trainor doesn’t seem to recognize a problem. Black does recognize a problem, but prefers to rely on the framework in place. Burns has a comprehensive plan for reform of the office, with an emphasis on being “unconnected.” Warren Montgomery touts transparent leadership and a staff of qualified individuals to establish integrity in office.

After 30 years of the same, St. Tammany is ready for change. View the debate videos here:

Timothy Gates,