Is Chief Paul using his government-paid attorney for a private battle?

Is the Baton Rouge Police Chief trying to use the lawyer who represents the police department as his private attorney and on the taxpayers' dime?

Unfiltered with Kiran has learned the lawyer who represents the Baton Rouge Police Dept. and gets paid by your tax dollars is now looking to represent Chief Murphy Paul personally, posing a possible conflict of interest.

It all goes back to April 2021 when a BRPD officer made two very serious allegations against Chief Paul for possible criminal and BRPD policy violations. The officer requested the Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board to investigate the possible violations. The hearing related to those allegations is scheduled to be heard at the civil service board’s Feb. 28th meeting. 

But now, Unfiltered with Kiran has learned that last Friday, Jan. 28th, James (Jim) Raines, filed a motion hoping to stop that hearing from ever happening. In that motion, Raines asked the court for an exemption for the costs associated with the litigation stating, “…Baton Rouge Police Department is exempt from the payment of court costs.” This begs the question of who exactly does Raines represent, Chief Paul personally or the Baton Rouge Police Department? Plus, if he’s representing Chief Paul personally, why would taxpayers foot this bill?

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will make a very important vote next Wednesday, Feb. 9th of whether or not they will approve Chief Paul’s request for an additional $80,000 for his lawyer fees. If approved, Chief Paul’s yearly budget for two private lawyers will increase from the normal $39,000/yr that previous police chiefs had to $230,000/yr.

READ NOW: CHIEF PAUL REQUESTING 3RD INCREASE

Since Unfiltered with Kiran’s report last week into Chief Paul’s third request to increase the budget for private lawyers since he’s been in office, Metro councilmembers chose not to approve the most recent request for an additional $80,000 in attorney fees, instead deferring the item until its next meeting. Several council members expressed concern over the rising costs and asked for an itemized accounting of the expenses related to this increase. Raines and Leo Hamilton from the firm Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, LLP represent Chief Paul at the Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board hearing any time a BRPD officer appeals the chief’s discipline. In the report last week, Unfiltered with Kiran highlighted the two attorneys, Raines & Hamilton, may have legal complaints pending with the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Council. 

Raines is accused of knowingly allowing certain members of BRPD’s administration to falsely testify before the civil service board. That could be perjury. Plus, both Raines & Hamilton are accused of attempting a coerce a witness, an officer, to testify differently than what that officer originally wanted to testify. There’s also a complaint lodged against the two attorneys for allegedly advising an officer not to show up to a hearing despite being served a legal subpoena.

For that report, Hamilton’s legal assistant responded via email for a comment saying, “Mr. Hamilton is currently on a medical leave of absence and is therefore unavailable for an interview.”

Raines never did return the calls or emails for comment.

Now, it appears Raines is also looking to represent Chief Paul personally in the allegations against him at the taxpayer’s dime. Chief Paul is accused of turning a blind eye into requests to investigate his then Internal Affairs Commander Myron Daniels for picking and choosing which cases into police officers to investigate. Daniels has since been promoted to deputy chief. The department is legally required to investigate any complaints. Plus, the chief is also accused of putting false information into an affidavit that was submitted to the civil service board. which is why this particular officer accused Chief Paul of possible policy and criminal law violations stemming from 2019.

For your understanding, when an officer faces discipline due to allegations of wrongdoing, he/she has a right to be represented by an attorney throughout the disciplinary process; however, the officer must pay for that attorney personally. While it is commonplace for some police union members to have a lawyer provided to them for this reason, that officer still pays for that lawyer by way of his/her union dues. But now, if the chief is going before the same board defending himself, why would taxpayers have to pay for his personal defense? Plus, one of the lawyers who technically represents the department as a whole, Raines, is now looking to defend the chief personally. So who is Raines representing, the chief himself or the department as a whole?

Baton Rouge lawyer Jill Craft says it is not different when it comes to the top cop. In fact, there is precedent for this exact situation Chief Paul faces now.

In February, 2013, then Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White, was drug through the disciplinary process when he was accused of multiple violations of department policy. During the entire process, Chief White was represented by Craft, who he personally compensated. No taxpayer funds were used. The reason for that is because when a chief is accused of wrongdoing, just like any of his officers, he cannot be represented by government-paid attorneys due to the possible conflict of interest that could cause.

“An attorney cannot represent two parties adverse to each other. When an attorney represents the officer facing discipline, the attorney cannot also represent the entity proposing the discipline. You cannot serve two masters especially when they are against each other,” said Craft.

Besides the possible conflict of interest, some say that the request for the exemption from the costs associated with the filing of the motion on behalf of the chief personally is also possibly problematic. Cliff Ivey, a police union endorsed attorney, said “I recently filed a nearly identical motion in district court on behalf of a union member in a disciplinary matter, and the costs were not eligible to be waived, nor did we request that. In fact, the Union incurred expenses upward of $1,000.00 in that instance.” 

According to Ivey, an employee defending him/herself in a disciplinary proceeding is responsible for those costs personally just like every other citizen. 

About Kiran Chawla 914 Articles
I'm an Emmy & Murrow Award winning investigative reporter who simply loves my job!

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