Embattled Council on Aging Director's mom finally recuses herself from controversial case
BATON ROUGE- State District Judge Janice Clark, the mother of embattled East Baton Rouge Council on Aging Director Tasha Clark Amar, has recused herself from a high-profile case involving the will of her daughter's deceased client.
It took eight months for Judge Clark to remove herself from Helen Plummer's tutorship proceedings. That is a piece of the case that would allow the Plummer family to settle her estate. With Clark not taking any action on the court order for eight months, the Plummer family essentially had their hands tied and couldn't do anything.
In March, the WBRZ Investigative Unit broke the story about Tasha Clark Amar. She named herself in Helen Plummer's will. Plummer was a client at the Council on Aging and the questionable will was drafted days before Plummer turned 95 by Council on Aging Board Member and Attorney Dorothy Jackson. The will would have paid Clark Amar $120,000, but she backed off the will following numerous media reports.
After the family spoke out about what Clark Amar did, Clark Amar sued them for defamation. Ironically, that case was assigned to her mom, Judge Janice Clark. Clark took a month to recuse herself from her daughter's defamation case.
On the other matter where Judge Clark waited eight months to recuse herself, at least one attorney who was representing the family recalled Judge Clark's own colleague, Judge Don Johnson, threatening to file a complaint with the Judiciary Commission about Judge Clark's behavior.
"We were standing there and explaining that we could not go forward with the proposed settlement because Judge Clark was sitting on a tutorship authorization on behalf of Ms. Davis," Attorney Robert Garrity recalled. "The judge became irate and said if we (lawyers on behalf of the clients) didn't file a complaint... then he was going to file a complaint (with the Judiciary Commission)."
Rules by the Supreme Court make it impossible to verify if a complaint is filed against a judge. However, legal scholars said the way Clark handled this from the beginning was questionable.
"When folks die, the legal process should not be adversarial, complicated and it certainly shouldn't take this long," LSU law professor Elizabeth Carter said.
We reached Clark by phone Tuesday to ask why she waited eight months to recuse herself on a case that would allow the Plummer family to settle the estate.
"I can't talk about this case because it's pending litigation," Judge Janice Clark said. "That's in accordance with the judicial cannons."
Judicial cannons are codes of conduct that judges must follow.
Attorneys who had to deal with this situation say they believe Clark should be disciplined.
"I think she should be sanctioned," Garrity said. "Unfortunately, it's not my decision. I'm not on the judiciary commission. She should be sanctioned for it. When she saw the name of Ms. Davis requesting the tutorship she should have recused herself immediately."
Legal scholars agree with Garrity.
"If I was the family or attorneys for the family I'd be very upset by her (Judge Clark's) conduct and considering what options are available," Carter said.
Judge Johnson referred WBRZ to the attorneys representing the family and also declined to comment. Following Judge Clark's recent recusal, no date has been set to settle Plummer's estate yet.