Sad Tale of N.O. Federal Judge Only Half The Story

The sad tale of U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous, who has been accused of boozing, gambling and fibbing, is only half the story. His loyal staff is the other half. One even paid his gambling debts.

Judge Thomas Porteous/official photo
Judge Thomas Porteous/official photo

By Richard Rainey
New Orleans Times-Picayune
NEW ORLEANS — When the Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals effectively suspended District Judge Thomas Porteous last month, it quietly shuttered his chambers and laid off his staff of five, including a secretary who played an integral role in the financial history of the disgraced judge.
Rhonda Danos, described in private conversations as fiercely loyal to Porteous, lost a post she held in his front office for 24 years. Beyond the usual trappings of a secretary’s duties, she paid some of Porteous’ gambling and credit card debts and, according to testimony from one witness, delivered money to the judge from lawyers who had a case in his court.
“Tom Porteous says she’s a very fine lady and that he’s had her with him for many years, and he feels terrible that she somehow has been dragged into this,” said Porteous’ attorney, Lewis Unglesby. “And now with the 5th Circuit not even giving her a chance to defend herself, she has to lose her job.”
Porteous has been under investigation for six years, first by the U.S. Justice Department then by the 5th Circuit’s Judicial Council. The Justice Department decided in 2007 not to seek criminal charges, but the Judicial Council and U.S. Judicial Conference subsequently called for him to be impeached. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee formed a 12-member task force in September to consider it.
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