St. Tammany Parish Assistant District Attorney Cary Menard addresses attendees at a forum hosted by community activist Belinda Parker-Brown on August 5, 2023 in which Menard provided insight on how the criminal justice system works in order that attendees can better understand the rights of friends or relatives who have been accused of crimes.
On May 11, 2023, India Ratliff appeared before 22nd JDC Judge William Burris entailing a misdemeanor charge of alleged simple damage to property of less than $1,000 allegedly committed on or about December 3, 2021.
Ratliff, a member of community activist Belinda Parker-Brown’s Louisiana United International Organization, was represented by 22nd JDC Public Defender Gavin Richard.
Let us now present the State’s version of the sideshow that developed at the Court Hearing, after which we’ll present Parker-Brown’s version of the sideshow. First, for the State, as reflected in the Court Minutes of the Hearing:
Defense Counsel informed the Court of an interaction regarding Belinda Parker-Brown and her interference with his client. Court ordered Belinda Parker-Brown be banned from the Courtroom unless she is given written authority by the Court, and he will be filing a rule for indirect contempt. Court requested all present parties that were present during the incident be noted so that they may be subpoenaed for a hearing. Attorneys Cameron Mary and James Flammang made statements to the Court regarding the incident.
Later in the day, Belinda Parker-Brown and Attorney, Muriel Van horn were present in the Courtroom and Ms. Van hourn made statements to the Court regarding the involvement of Ms. Parker-Brown in a civil matter in Division A. Court questioned Counsel as to her representation of Ms. Parker Brown in this matter and Ms. Van horn stepped down. Court ordered Belinda Parker Brown be banished from this Courtroom as well as the Division E Courtroom. Court informed Ms. Parker-Brown that a rule for indirect contempt will be filed and the possible sentence. Court informed Ms. Parker-Brown to obtain Counsel by said hearing date if she desires representation. Ms. Parker-Brown stated her address on the record as 1622 11th Street, Slidell, LA 70458. Ms. Van horn objected for the record and Court warned her as to her representation of Ms. Parker-Brown if she does so on the record and said objection was withdrawn. Ms. Parker Brown objected and Court noted said objection.
Okay. That’s the State of Louisiana’s version, now let’s take a listen to Parker-Brown’s version as aired on this podcast the day before the hearing (i.e. September 6, 2023). Here’s what Parker Brown says went down:
Parker-Brown provides her version of the May 11, 2023 courtroom sideshow transpiring in 22nd JDC Judge William Burris’ courtroom.
The hearing on the Rule to Show Cause entailing “indirect contempt of court” transpired on Thursday, September 7, 2023 at 1:30 p.m., and Sound Off Louisiana’s founder, Robert Burns, attended and took extensive notes. As noted in the title, Parker-Brown was permanently banned from Judge Burris’ Courtroom (and all misdemeanor proceedings in 22nd JDC). We obtained a video interview with Parker-Brown, her husband, Carl, and Ms. Rita McDonald soon after the hearing. Let’s take a look at what everyone had to say entailing the day’s hearing:
Parker-Brown, her husband, Carl, and Ms. Rita McDonald provide their thoughts on the hearing. Parker-Brown also sought for folk to be advised that she’d filed for Removal of the matter to Federal Court earlier that same day, September 7, 2023.
As noted above, Parker-Brown filed a Joint Notice of Removal to Federal Court a few hours before the hearing before Judge Burris. Parker-Brown provided Burris with a copy of the filed Notice of Removal; however, he indicated that, “absent a signed Order from a Federal Judge or a Magistrate Judge, this proceeding continues.” Parker-Brown then indicated that she desired to be represented by attorney Claiborne Brown; however, (Claiborne) Brown informed the Judge that he and Parker-Brown were unable to come to satisfactory agreement entailing him representing her, and so Judge Burris instructed him to have a seat and instructed Parker-Brown to step forward for the matter to commence.
The hearing lasted two (2) hours during which numerous witnesses were called by Judge Burris. Several Public Defenders testified under oath that they’d admonished Parker-Brown that she’d been acting as an attorney with no license. That was the whole basis of Judge Burris’ Rule to Show Cause entailinig alleged violations of LA CCrP Article 23:4 and 23:6.
Upon the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Burris ruled that Parker-Brown had in fact committed, “egregious violations of Sections four and six,” afer which he imposed a fine of $1,000 and taxed Parker-Brown with all court costs associated with the hearing. Parker-Brown indicated to Judge Burris that she would be appealing, to which Judge Burris stated, “That’s fine. You can follow the proper process for launching an appeal.” Parker-Brown then informed the court reporter that she would, “need a transcript of the proceedings as fast as possible.”
We received correspondence to us indicating that Burris had, “shown Contempt for the Federal Court the same way he was accusing Parker-Brown of showing Contempt for his court.” That fact was buttressed in the communication to us with the following:
28 USC §1455(b)(3) The filing of a notice of removal of a criminal prosecution shall not prevent the State court in which such prosecution is pending from proceeding further, except that a judgment of conviction shall not be entered unless the prosecution is first remanded.
Parker-Brown indicated during the hearing to Judge Burris that, “I feel like it’s my organization which is on trial here today!” Burris, who was extremely polite to Parker-Brown throughout the proceeding (as was she back to him), then said, “Yes, tell me a little about your organization.”
We’re going to wrap this feature up with a few videos associated with an August 5, 2023 community forum in which St. Tammany Parish Assistant District Attorney Cary Menard agreed to address attendees to provide some insight on how the judicial system works and how they may be able to help their friends or families in knowing their rights.
Parker-Brown stated throughout the hearing that her role and that of her organization’s is just that: to help individuals understand just what their rights are. She further maintained that she does that through such forums and in being able to assist members with, if they so desire, as Ms. Ratliff stated under oath was the case for her, obtaining private representation rather than relying upon Public Defenders. Here are a few videos from that community forum:
On August 5, 2023, Covington Mayor Mark Johnson addresses a community gathering sponsored by Belinda Parker-Brown.
On August 5, 2023, St. Tammany Parish President Michael Cooper addresses a community gathering sponsored by Belinda Parker-Brown.
On August 5, 2023, Cary Menard Assistant District Attorney with the St. Tammany Parish DA’s Office addresses a community gathering sponsored by Belinda Parker-Brown.
One source told us that, in view of the Federal citation above, the ruling by Judge Burris is, “flatly illegal.” Our response? Irrespective of legality, we can only harken back to the immortal words of attorney Eric Haik (to pro se litigant Billy Broussard), “A judge can do whatever he wants!” Perhaps the hearing of September 7, 2023 entailing Parker-Brown being held in constructive contempt exemplifies that very fact!
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