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Louisiana editorial roundup

June 26, 2019

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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June 26

The Houma Courier on the return of an anticipated regional football camp:

Anticipation is building at Nicholls State and across our region. The beginning of the Manning Passing Academy is around the corner, so our area is starting to see an influx of young student-athletes from across the U.S.

The camp — for quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs — is nearly a quarter-century old, and is now entering its 15th year in Thibodaux. Each year, it attracts more than 1,000 campers to our area, many of whom bring their families along for the visit.

But its impact is felt far beyond the Nicholls State campus. Hotels and restaurants throughout Houma-Thibodaux will see a bump in activity ... as some of the best high school, college and professional athletes come here. ...

... Practice fields have been marked off, the campers’ quarters have been prepared for them. Now, all that’s left is the camp itself and widespread wishes for good weather.

Economic studies have estimated that the impact of the camp comes close to $2 million each year for our businesses. That’s a significant effect and one that business owners are happy to see. Fortunately, the arrangement has worked out just as well for the camp and its participants.

“We are very, very comfortable in Thibodaux,” Archie Manning said before last year’s camp convened. “Everybody has been so nice to us since the first year we came. We always enjoy working with the people at Nicholls and in Thibodaux and the surrounding area. We always look forward to coming back every year.”

Archie Manning will be here, as will his sons Peyton, Eli and Cooper, along with a host of other high-level instructors who will help groom the next generation of football players.

This is an exciting time in Thibodaux and around the region. The Manning Passing Academy is one of a kind, and it has found a unique home right here. It has helped Houma-Terrebonne, and we have helped the camp — a wonderful combination that helps to keep it here year after year.

Welcome back to town to all the participants, organizers, instructors, family members and spectators. We are happy to have you here, and we hope you keep returning for many years to come.

Online: www.houmatoday.com

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June 25

The Advocate on allegations of past unethical behavior against a Louisiana Supreme Court justice:

As a justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, Jeff Hughes is supposed to embody the highest standards of judicial conduct.

He failed that standard miserably two decades ago when he presided over a controversial custody case while he was, according to several people, romantically involved with one of its lawyers.

His behavior, brought to light this week by an Advocate investigation of the long-ago legal battle, should alarm voters who have elected him to the state’s highest court. Maybe they would have made another decision if they had known of Hughes’ sordid conduct, which attracted the attention of the FBI when he was a state judge in Livingston Parish.

The fact that citizens generally didn’t know about it is an even bigger scandal. It points to a pervasive lack of transparency in Louisiana’s judicial system — a problem that hampers accountability and compromises confidence in how justice is carried out.

Some of the details of the custody dispute are mentioned in an unrelated court case. That information, along with other documents The Advocate located, form the basis of what we know. Some documents were suspiciously missing from the official record. And, since the records of the state’s Judiciary Commission, which disciplines judges for bad behavior, aren’t routinely made public, we don’t know what, if anything, was done to address Hughes’ clearly unethical behavior.

The facts that have made it into the light of day read like a horror story. In 1999, while on the state bench in Livingston, Hughes was romantically involved with lawyer Berkley Durbin, according to several people familiar with the situation. Even so, he didn’t recuse himself from a custody case and related legal matters involving a five-year-old boy named Austin Nicholson. Durbin represented Austin’s mother, who was fighting for custody even though her boyfriend, who would become her husband, had been accused of scalding Austin in a tub of hot water.

Hughes refused to recuse himself and ruled in favor of Austin’s mother, though child welfare officials strenuously objected. The case was eventually turned over to another judge, and in 2004, Hughes wrote a note to the boy’s grandmother in which he appeared to apologize for his conduct, saying it was “inimical to the pursuit of the truth and that, because of my actions, justice suffered. For this, I am deeply remorseful.”

If Hughes were truly remorseful, he’d speak publicly about the case, which prompted an FBI probe that ultimately did not produce any charges against him.

Sadly, without basic transparency, the public doesn’t know how many other abuses have occurred in Louisiana’s judiciary and what was done about them.

State lawmakers had a chance last session to approve a bill making the records of the judiciary commission public. They balked, no doubt because many legislators are lawyers who are friends of judges or aspire to the bench themselves.

Austin Nicholson, now grown, survived his ordeal and now lives out of state. But Jeff Hughes failed him, and the system did, too. Until more light is shed on the Louisiana judiciary’s dirty dealings, we can expect more victims like Nicholson in the future.

Online: www.theadvocate.com

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June 20

The Houma Courier on the state’s low child well-being ranking:

The latest Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation was released ... and the news is not good for Louisiana’s children.

The report ranks Louisiana 49th of the 50 states, ahead of only New Mexico, in a compilation of various measures that together paint a bleak portrait of the world our kids face.

In child health, one of four broad categories of the measures, Louisiana ranked 44th. But in economic well-being (50th), family and community (48th) and education (48th), our state was at or near the very bottom across the nation.

That is disheartening. As we all know, our children represent our opportunity to build a better, stronger state. But if they are held back by a severe lack of social and government resources, they will continue to lag behind their counterparts in other states.

Significantly, too, our population of children is decreasing, perhaps indicating a trend of people going elsewhere in search of better places to raise their kids.

“Louisiana’s children represent 1,108,403 unique opportunities to create a stronger, more vibrant state,” said Dr. Anthony Recasner of New Orleans, CEO of Agenda for Children. “Louisiana’s child population has shrunk by nearly 100,000 children since 1990, while our neighbors in Texas saw their child population increase by more than 2.4 million children. If we want our state to grow and thrive, we need to invest in policies and programs that will give children a strong foundation and attract new families to our state.” ...

In a state as blessed as ours is with natural resources, we should be able to figure out a way to protect our most valuable resource.

We have to treat our children as the priority they should be. We have to treat our education system with the importance it deserves. We have to make sure children around Louisiana have access to health care and other vital resources.

And, we are starting from behind. As this report and others in years past have pointed out, we continue to neglect our responsibility to give our children the things they will need to succeed in life. It should come as no surprise that fewer parents are choosing to raise their children in a state with our track record.

We must do better.

Online: www.houmatoday.com

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