BY ALLEN JOHNSON JR.
James L. "Jimmy" Fahrenholtz, the former Orleans Parish School Board member and a darling of the local news media on education reform issues, has been suspended from the practice of law for one year and one day.
The Supreme Court on Friday yanked Fahrenholtz's license for a year and a day, ruling he failed to cooperate with two investigations by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC), which prosecutes complaints of lawyer misconduct in Louisiana. "The misconduct is particularly troublesome because he was an elected official at the time," the Supreme Court ruling stated, adding that "an attorney occupying a position of public trust is held to even a higher standard of conduct than an ordinary attorney."
Elected to the School Board as a reformer, in 2000 and 2004, Fahrenholtz did not seek reelection in 2008.
But Fahrenholtz, 60, told Gambit this afternoon he retired from practicing law four years ago, adding the disciplinary action issued by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Friday is a "waste" of state time and resources.
"They are pissed off because I didn't follow their rules," Fahrenholtz said. "Well, I keep telling [the high court]: 'I'm not a lawyer anymore. Go away; go bother somebody else.' We have the most corrupt judiciary in the country and they're going after lawyers who are retired."
Fahrenholtz has been ineligible to practice law since Oct. 31, 2005 after failing to pay his bar dues, the high court ruling states. Further, he has not complied with Louisiana's mandatory continuing legal education requirements since 2006. Fahrenholtz failed to cooperate with Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigators probing two separate complaints: 1) he allegedly ignored $27,400 in fines and late fees for tardy campaign finance reports requested by the Louisiana Ethics Board and 2) his failure to respond to a complaint by Reinier Nelso, who retained Fahrenholtz to serve as executor of a decedent's Last Will and Testament, according to records of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board.
Fahrenholtz is also still at odds with the ethics board, which claims he now owes more than $37,000 in fines for violating state campaign finance laws. Nevertheless, reporters have overlooked these ethical battles, often seeking out the quotable Fahrenholtz for sound bites on School Board corruption issues -- most recently regarding the Mose Jefferson bribery trial.
Fahrenholtz demurred when asked if he is going to run for the District C City Council seat in the 2010 elections, he said today.