It was a bustling morning in Judge Paul Sens’ courtroom at the New Orleans Municipal Court building on Broad Street. A batch of inmates in orange jumpsuits was present, as were lawyers, court clerks and security officers.

But it was Judge Mark Shea sitting on the bench where Sens should have been.

A New Orleans police officer assigned to security in Sens’ court said the judge took the day off. He took yesterday off, too.

Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux released on Tuesday a public letter excoriating the Sens family nepotism network at the Municipal Court.

Quatrevaux said that 18 Sens family members have worked at the court since 2000, including seven present employees working a variety of administrative and clerical posts. The hires have included his son, multiple cousins, nieces and nephews, and a raft of in-laws.

The Lens wanted to hear what Sens had to say about the Quatrevaux report, which detailed family earnings at Municipal Court of over $1.2 million over the past three years. It  accused Sens of building a “dynasty” at the court on taxpayers’ dime.

The Inspector General’s public letter was addressed to Administrative Judge Desiree Charbonnet, who took the top-judge slot from Sens in early June.

Quatrevaux told Charbonnet he was forwarding his Sens-family findings to the state Judiciary Commission, which investigates charges of judicial malfeasance.

The Lens also wanted to ask Sens about a Quatrevaux report released July 12 that blasted the judge for hiring the wife of Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman to run a counseling program for teenage marijuana smokers.

At just about the same time, the sheriff’s office was hiring Sens’ wife, Ann, to perform appraisals for weekly sheriff’s sale auctions of foreclosed property. That story was first reported by The Lens and our reporting partners at Fox 8 News.

Sens was first elected to the court in 1996. He ascended to the Administrative Judge top spot at Municipal Court in 2007.

In a follow-up call to the Municipal Court Wednesday, The Lens asked to speak to “Mr. Sens.” A court officer answering the phone thought we were calling about Christopher Sens, the judge’s nephew, who is on vacation.

According to the Quatrevaux report, Christopher Sens works as the clerk of court and has earned over $200,000 between 2010 and mid-July of this year.

The Lens was unable to determine if other Sens family members were also on holiday from their court jobs this week.

A phone call to Paul Sens’ Lakeview home was not returned.

Tom Gogola

Tom Gogola covered criminal justice for The Lens from February 2012 to May 2013. He is a veteran journalist and editor who has written on a range of subjects for many publications, including Newsday, New...