Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Butler dodges arrest warrant for contempt
By Brian Thevenot
New Orleans Criminal Court Clerk Kimberly Williamson Butler remained on the lam Monday, in defiance of an arrest warrant charging her with contempt for refusing to comply with a court order issued by the judges she serves.
The chief judge of Criminal District Court, Calvin Johnson, meanwhile, said Butler will either comply with the order or be arrested and jailed until she does so.
Deputies from the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office tried to arrest her Friday at her temporary offices at 317 Magazine St., but Butler wasn't there, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Renee Lapeyrolerie. It remained unclear Monday whether deputies were still actively seeking her.
If authorities are looking to find her, Butler presumably will be on hand to manage the qualifying period for the upcoming election, which starts Ash Wednesday and will be held at Hall A of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Butler also is expected to be there as a candidate, filing her own paperwork to qualify for a second term.
In her short political career, Butler has tangled publicly with a range of public officials criticizing her work. After Mayor Ray Nagin forced her resignation from her post as chief administrative officer in 2003, a post she held for less than year, she sued him for discrimination, a case later dismissed by a federal judge.
Butler then ran a successful campaign for court clerk, based partly on public sympathy for what she characterized as unfair attacks by Nagin. She then squandered much of that support in a nationally publicized failure of the September 2004 elections, in which Butler's office failed to deliver voting machines on time to 90 precincts.
Amid a hail of criticism, Butler initially deflected blame for the debacle but later accepted full responsibility in a hearing before the state Legislature.