A federal judge overseeing the bankruptcy of the New Orleans Catholic church has recused himself a week after the Associated Press revealed he had donated tens of thousands of dollars to the archdiocese and consistently argued in favor of the church in the case of nearly 500 victims of sexual abuse by the clergy.
Federal Judge Greg Guidry initially announced, hours after hearing the Associated Press report, that he would continue the case because other federal judges believed no “reasonable person” could question his impartiality. But amid mounting pressure and persistent questions, the judge reversed course Friday night, issuing a terse one-page document.
“I have decided to withdraw from this matter to avoid any possible semblance of personal bias,” Guidry wrote.
The attorney is overseeing the three-year bankruptcy case as an appellate judge, and her recusal will likely throw the case into chaos and lead to hearings and appeals of each of her rulings.
But legal experts say it was the only move possible under the circumstances, as federal law requires judges to step aside in any proceeding where their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
“This was a clear and glaring conflict that had been around for some time,” said Joel Friedman, a former legal analyst in New Orleans and now a law professor at Arizona State University. “It creates just the problem the rules are supposed to avoid, the public impression that it’s not impartial in making decisions.”
Guidry’s recusal reveals how deeply the church is entrenched in the city’s power structure, a relationship of convenience perhaps best exemplified when New Orleans Saints football team officials secretly advised the archdiocese on how best to handle public relations during the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
The Associated Press study of campaign finance files revealed that Guidry since being nominated for federal justice by then-President Donald Trump in 2019, has given nearly $50,000 to Catholic charities with remaining political contributions that he received during the campaign decade that he was a Louisiana Supreme Court justice. Of those donations, $36,000 came in the months after May 2020, as the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, overwhelmed by a torrent of sex abuse lawsuits.