Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Bad judgment? New Orleans judge charged with allegedly failing to pay taxes on cash she earned officiating weddings

By Lukas I. Alpert
Prosecutors say Ernestine Anderson-Trahan officiated hundreds of weddings for cash fees of $80 and up, but never disclosed the income to the IRS.
Judge Ernestine Anderson-Trahan is accused of failing to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in income she collected for presiding over weddings. (Getty Images)

The couples said “I do,” but this judge said “I don’t” to the IRS.

A New Orleans judge has been indicted on charges that she failed to disclose on her taxes the thousands of dollars she earned in fees for officiating weddings over several years.

Ernestine “Teena” Anderson-Trahan, 55, has been a judge in the Second City Court in the Parish of Orleans dating back to 2013, hearing civil cases, small claims disputes and eviction proceedings. 

On the side, she presided over weddings, both in the courthouse and at private ceremonies, prosecutors said.

Between 2013 and 2017, Anderson-Trahan oversaw hundreds of ceremonies, charging between $80 and $100 in cash for in-court weddings and more for nuptials held off-site, according to court papers. But prosecutors say she failed to disclose any of that income on her tax returns.

A message left with an attorney for Anderson-Trahan wasn’t immediately returned. 

The issue came to attention in 2018, when WVUE-TV aired a report pointing out that several judges in local New Orleans courthouses were charging fees on the side to officiate weddings, possibly in violation of the law. The report said the judges each were collecting as much as $25,000 in supplemental income each year.

Anderson-Trahan faces up to 12 years in federal prison if convicted on all four of the counts of filing false tax returns with which she has been charged. 

A message left with a spokesman for the court wasn’t immediately returned. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Anderson-Trahan had been suspended from her duties as a judge.

Anderson-Trahan, a Democrat, was automatically re-elected in 2018 after running unopposed. Before becoming a judge, Anderson-Trahan was a lawyer in New Orleans after having passed the bar in 1992.

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