LA Dem Leader Appoints Disbarred Attorney to Rules & Bylaws Committee

Photo courtesy Derrek Shepherd Facebook

In a move that has sparked concern from many Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) members, as well as many party members, state party leader Katie Bernhardt, has appointed a disbarred attorney and convicted felon as co-chair of the party Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd was arrested in 2008 and later plead guilty to felony conspiracy to commit money laundering in a plea deal that resulted in other charges against him – including mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud – being dropped. According to court documents, Shepherd helped a convicted bond broker launder close to $141,000 in fraudulently generated bond fees. As a result of his guilty plea, Shepherd was permanently disbarred in 2012. Shepherd served an 11-year prison sentence and was released in 2019.

In spite of all of this, Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt felt he is an appropriate choice for the vacant co-chair position on the party’s Rules and Bylaws committee. She had previously supported his appointment as party parliamentarian, despite concern from party members.

“Our party leadership – starting in the Executive Committee and extending down to the Rules and Bylaws Committee – should exemplify good conduct, accountability, and hold to the highest standards as an example for our entire state,” said Kirk Green, Democratic Executive Committee Member for the 6th District. Green also served on the Bylaws and Chair Resolutions Committee. “A parliamentarian and committee chair that cannot meet these measurements should not be in leadership.”

Bernhardt has faced consistent pushback from members of the DSCC, several of whom opposed her election to the top seat in the party due to her consistent previous support of Louisiana Republicans. In January, Bernhardt’s Vice-Chair C. Travis Johnson raised eyebrows when he received support in the form of a fundraiser hosted by the Louisiana Republican Caucus Chair.

Despite a concerning record, Bernhardt insists that she will help get more Democrats elected in the state.

“I’m here to ensure that we get more Democrats elected,” she said at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall earlier this month. “I’m going to make some big changes. Some of that comes with some growing pains but that’s OK. We are going to have some tough conversations that need to be had. I know there are frustrations but we need to make sure we are laying the groundwork that allows us to have Democratic leaders all over the state.”

Thus far, many Louisiana Democrats remain unconvinced.

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