Best of AP — Honorable Mention


Judge’s donations cloud rulings in Catholic bankruptcy


AP reporter Jim Mustian exclusively reported that a federal judge donated tens of thousands of dollars to New Orleans’ Roman Catholic archdiocese and consistently ruled in favor of the church amid a contentious bankruptcy involving nearly 500 clergy sex abuse victims, an apparent conflict that led to calls for him to recuse himself. 

Mustian scoured publicly available records to find that U.S. District Judge Greg Guidry donated nearly $50,000 to archdiocese charities since being named to the federal bench in 2019, with $36,000 of that coming after it sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 and Guidry began overseeing the case in an appellate role. Mustian also found that the Guidry had previously served eight years on the board of Catholic Charities, the archdiocese’s charitable arm. 

Since Guidry, a 62-year-old Trump appointee had a reputation for rarely coming into his office, Mustian sent a letter to the judges home detailing the AP’s findings and seeking a comment.  

But instead of responding to the AP, Guidry hastily called a telephone hearing with lawyers in the case to tell them that a potential conflict “has been brought to my attention” and he was considering recusal. 

About 10 hours after that AP story moved Guidry held another telephone hearing to announce that he would not recuse himself after all, citing the opinion of a panel of federal judges he consulted who said no “reasonable person” would question his impartiality despite his contributions and longstanding ties to the archdiocese.  

Play for the story was strong, in the Top 10 on AP News all day Friday, with prominent placement on the NPR, ABC and Washington Post news sites. New Orleans television also quickly picked up on it — including WWL-TV, which interviewed Mustian — and noted the judges’ decision would likely not end the calls for him to step aside. Plaintiffs planned to decide this week whether to file a motion to disqualify Guidry — a motion that initially would be heard by Guidry.  

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