By Nick Reimann | Nola.com | February 1, 2020
State District Judge Jeff Perilloux hasn’t heard a case in 21 months.
But that hasn’t stopped the suspended judge in St. John the Baptist Parish from collecting his taxpayer-paid salary while he awaits trial on charges of sexual misconduct involving three of his daughter’s teenage friends.
Records from the state Supreme Court show that Perilloux, 52, has been paid over $256,000 since he began a leave of absence on May 16, 2018. The high court formally suspended Perilloux the next month, following his indictment on three felony counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile and a misdemeanor sexual battery charge.
Under state law, the Supreme Court can allow judges to continue being paid while they are suspended. And that’s to be expected in a case like Perilloux’s, according to Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a watchdog agency based in New Orleans.
“This is pretty much the norm,” said Goyeneche, who noted that Perilloux will also continue to accrue credit in the judiciary pension program during his suspension.
Efforts to reach Perilloux’s attorney were not successful.
In addition to paying Perilloux, taxpayers have also had to cover the salaries of the judges called in to handle his Division B docket in St. John’s 40th Judicial District Court.
Factoring in salary and expense reimbursements, payments for those judges had cost taxpayers over $140,000 as of the end of 2019, state Supreme Court records show.
That money went to several ad hoc judges who have had to step in to carry some of Perilloux’s caseload. State taxpayers cover the costs for all judges’ salaries.
Perilloux’s trial in St. John Parish was initially scheduled for March 11, 2019, but has been delayed four times, the most recent in January. It is now set to begin March 30.
The charges against Perilloux stem from alleged encounters at his LaPlace home in 2017. Prosecutors say that in May and June of that year, he touched the breasts of two girls — then aged 14 and 15 — and also “intentionally” touched the breasts of a third girl in December 2017.
The judge pleaded not guilty to the charges at a July 2018 arraignment; he has been free since he posted a $35,000 bond.
Retired Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Dennis Waldron is overseeing the case against Perilloux.
“He’s entitled to due process like everyone else,” Goyeneche said. “He was elected by the public, and he’s going to be paid until he’s no longer a judge, and that will not be determined until his criminal case is completed.”
Even if Perilloux is found not guilty, he would still face an investigation and potential disciplinary action from the Louisiana Judiciary Commission, Goyeneche said, though he added that those proceedings often drag on for a long time and are shrouded in secrecy.
Until there is a conviction or some action taken by the Judiciary Commission, Goyeneche said he can’t think of a situation where a judge wouldn’t be entitled to paychecks.
Perilloux’s term expires at the end of this year.