Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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The case involves a dispute over the incorporation of the proposed City of St. George in Louisiana. The petition for incorporation was filed in 2018 and was approved by the governor, leading to a special election in which 54% of voters approved the incorporation. However, a legal challenge was filed by Baton Rouge’s Mayor-President and a Metropolitan Councilman, arguing that the petition for incorporation was deficient and that the proposed city would be unable to provide public services within a reasonable period of time. They also contended that the incorporation would have an adverse impact on Baton Rouge.The trial court denied the incorporation, finding that the petition minimally satisfied the statutory requirements and that the incorporation was unreasonable. The court found that St. George would operate at a deficit, affecting the timely provision of public services, and that lost tax revenue would significantly impact Baton Rouge. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of incorporation, finding the petition deficient as it failed to include a plan for the provision of services.The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court found that the lower courts erred in their calculations of St. George's operating costs and potential revenues. The court also found that the lower courts failed to consider the cost savings that would result from Baton Rouge no longer having to provide services to St. George. The court concluded that St. George could provide public services within a reasonable period of time and that the incorporation was reasonable. The court therefore rendered judgment in favor of the proponents of incorporation. View "BROOME VS. RIALS" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Louisiana was asked to decide if the Council of the City of New Orleans ("Council") had the legal standing to institute a lawsuit against various parties, including the Mayor of New Orleans, relating to the assets of the Edward Wisner Trust. The Council had challenged a 2020 agreement, which it alleged illegally disposed of public property and modified the trust without its oversight or input. The issue arose when the defendants filed an exception of lack of procedural capacity, arguing that the Council did not have the authority to institute the lawsuit. The trial court denied the exception, but the Court of Appeal reversed the decision, leading to an appeal to the Supreme Court.The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal, holding that the Council did have the procedural capacity to bring the lawsuit. The court based its decision on its interpretation of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans ("HRC"), which indicated that the Council, as an independent entity distinct from the executive branch, had the legal capacity to function independently and to institute suits as necessary for the protection of the city's rights and interests. The court also considered the longstanding custom of the Council participating in litigation both as plaintiff and defendant. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that the Council had the legal standing to bring the lawsuit, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeal for further proceedings. View "THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS VS. EDWARD WISNER DONATION" on Justia Law

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In a dispute arising from a contract for refurbishing an elementary school, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled that no unfair trade practices claim could be stated against the State of Louisiana, Department of Education, Recovery School District (the “State”). The plaintiff, Advanced Environmental Consulting, Inc. (“AEC”), had subcontracted to perform asbestos abatement services for Law Industries, LLC, the general contractor. When the State terminated the contract due to unsatisfactory asbestos remediation progress, AEC amended its answer to Law Industries' breach of contract suit to include a claim of unfair trade practices under the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (“LUTPA”). The State had objected to this claim, arguing that AEC had no cause of action and that the claim was perempted (time-barred). The Supreme Court of Louisiana held that AEC had failed to state a valid LUTPA cause of action against the State. It concluded that the State's actions were in furtherance of its governmental function of providing safe educational facilities for schoolchildren. The State, in this case, was a consumer of construction services, not a participant in "trade or commerce" as defined in the LUTPA, and was therefore not subject to a LUTPA claim. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its ruling. View "LAW INDUSTRIES, LLC VS. STATE" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to clarify the statutory funding obligations of the City of Shreveport (“the City”) to the Shreveport City Marshal (“the Marshal”). Based on the plain language of the relevant statutory provisions, the Court found find La. R.S. 13:1889 required only that the City fund the operation and maintenance expenses of the physical offices of the Marshal. View "Caldwell v. City of Shreveport" on Justia Law

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In Louisiana v. Bartie, 14th Judicial District Court Case Number 12615-16, Div. G, Judge Michael Canaday presided over multiple hearings relating to the defendant’s indigency and his request for ancillary funding for defense experts. Because the hearings involved the disclosure of defense strategy, they were conducted without the district attorney, and the transcripts were sealed. Judge Canaday found the defendant was not indigent and denied his request for funding. The defense filed a writ application with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal challenging the indigency ruling. To facilitate filing the application, Judge Canaday granted defense counsel’s request for transcripts of the hearings. After defense counsel moved to obtain a missing transcript, Judge Canaday ordered the transcript be given to defense counsel and handwrote that it be “release[d] from seal.” Judge Canaday then received an email from the district attorney’s office asking whether his order gave the district attorney’s office access to the transcripts, or only defense counsel and the Third Circuit. Defense counsel was not copied with this email. Judge Canaday replied: “Since I don’t believe the state could appeal my granting relief to the defense on funding, I don’t think they can support the courts [sic] position to deny. The courts [sic] reasons will be sufficient for the 3rd to review. If the 3rd requests a states [sic] response obviously they could access the record.” Defense counsel was not included in these communications. The district attorney’s office then filed a “Motion to Unseal All Documents and Transcripts in Regards to Determining Indigency of the Defendant.” This motion was styled neither ex parte nor unopposed. Without a hearing, Judge Canaday signed an order granting the district attorney’s office the requested relief. Defense counsel did not have an opportunity to respond. The materials released by Judge Canaday included a transcript of a closed hearing where defense strategy specific to Bartie was discussed, including experts and their expected testimony. Defense counsel successfully argued for Judge Canaday’s recusal from the Bartie case. Writ applications seeking reversal of the recusal were denied by both the Third Circuit and the Louisiana Supreme Court. The recusal and subsequent related writ applications resulted in the expenditure of significant time, effort, and funds by both the state and defense counsel. There were negative media reports concerning Judge Canaday’s actions. Media reports prompted a Judiciary Commission investigation. The Commission found Judge Canaday engaged in improper ex parte communications and inappropriately granted a state motion to release documents from seal without holding a hearing or otherwise allowing defense counsel the opportunity to respond. The Commission recommended that he be publicly censured and pay costs. The Louisiana Supreme Court concurred with the censure recommendation. View "In re: JUDGE G. Michael Canaday" on Justia Law

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Jefferson Parish School Board and Jefferson Parish Sheriff (collectively, “defendants”) challenged the constitutionality of a trial court judgment ordering the defendants to remit into the trial court’s registry $2,780,232.02. The disputed funds were collected through the enforcement of Jefferson Parish ordinance, Section 36- 320, et seq., titled “School Bus Safety Enforcement Program for Detecting Violations of Overtaking and Passing School Buses” (“SBSEP”). The Louisiana Supreme Court previously affirmed the trial court’s initial decision that found the SBSEP unconstitutional because it violated Article VI, Section 5 (G) and Article VII, Section 10 (A) of the Louisiana Constitution. The class action petitioners, William Mellor, et al., then moved for summary judgment seeking “the immediate return of their property in the possession of these two government entities... .” The trial court granted their summary judgment and ordered the defendants to remit the aforementioned funds into the registry of the court. Defendants sought an appeal and challenged the trial court’s authority to order them to remit the funds into the court’s registry. The court of appeal found that defendants improperly sought an appeal of an interlocutory judgment. The defendants’ later attempts to seek supervisory review of the trial court’s judgment and order were denied as untimely. The Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction to review the merits of the trial court’s order was the issue this case presented for review. The Supreme Court found that while it lacked appellate jurisdiction to review the merits of the trial court’s order, it did authority to exercise supervisory jurisdiction under Article V, Section 5 (A) of the Louisiana Constitution. "Even if the petitioners are entitled to a judgment in their favor, the trial court overstepped its authority in ordering defendants to remit funds into the court’s registry, as this unconstitutionally intrudes upon their delegated responsibility to appropriate funds, pursuant to Article XII, Section 10 of the Louisiana Constitution and Louisiana Revised Statute 13:5109 B (2)." The Court affirmed those lower court judgments properly before it. However, in exercising its plenary supervisory jurisdiction, the Supreme Court further found the trial court’s order to remit funds into its registry violated the aforementioned constitutional provisions. The Court vacated that order. View "Mellor, et al. v. Jefferson Parish, et al." on Justia Law

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United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit certified a question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The questions related to claims made by Kirk Menard, who worked as an environmental, safety, and health specialist at Targa Resources, LLC’s Venice, Louisiana plant. His job duties included ensuring Targa complied with various state and federal environmental and safety standards. Menard reported to two individuals: his “official supervisor,” David Smith, who resided at another facility, and an “indirect supervisor,” Ted Keller, who served as an area manager for the Venice plant. Menard’s indirect supervisor, in turn, reported to Perry Berthelot, a Targa District Manager. In a conference call, Menard reported that the total suspended solids in certain recent water samples exceeded regulatory limits. At the end of the call, Berthelot told Menard to call him back to discuss the plan for rectifying these exceedances. Menard obliged, and he alleged Berthelot told him he should dilute the sewage samples with bottled water. Menard claimed that in response he nervously laughed and said, “no, we’re going to correct it the right way.” The federal appellate court asked the Louisiana Supreme Court: (1) whether refusals to engage in illegal or environmentally damaging activities were “disclosures” under the current version of the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Statute ("LEWS"); and (2) whether LEWS afforded protection to an employee who reports to his supervisor an activity, policy, or practice of an employer which he reasonably believes is in violation of an environmental law, rule, or regulation, where reporting violations of environmental law, rules, or regulations, is a part of the employee’s normal job responsibilities. The Supreme Court responded in the affirmative to both questions. View "Menard v. Targa Resources, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider the continuing validity of the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity, adopted in Knapper v. Connick, 681 So. 2d 944 (1996). This case presented the issue of whether Louisiana law recognized a cause of action for claims asserted against an assistant district attorney (“ADA”), who, during the plea and sentencing phase of a prosecution, misrepresents, either directly or by omission, a victim’s preference as to the sentence to be imposed upon a defendant, and thereafter, attempts to conceal this alleged misconduct. A secondary question concerned whether a cause of action could be maintained against the district attorney (“DA”) who employed the ADA, under a theory of vicarious liability or for employment-related claims. The Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding in Knapper and further found that, under the circumstances of this case, both the ADA and the DA were entitled to immunity. The Court thus found that the lower courts erred in overruling the defendants’ peremptory exception of no cause of action. View "Jameson v. Montgomery, et al." on Justia Law

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The Pineville City Court was fully funded by the City of Pineville. This funding included amounts for the salaries of three clerk positions and accompanying human resources services. In turn, the City Court reimbursed the City for forty-percent of those expenses. In November 2020, the Pineville City Court informed the City that it would no longer reimburse the forty- percent as it had done in the past. Thereafter, the City sent notice that it would reduce payments of the clerks’ salaries by forty-percent, cease providing payroll and human resources services, pay only sixty-percent of the clerks’ retirement contributions, and discontinue the clerks’ participation in the city’s Blue Cross health plan. In this mandamus action the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether the court of appeal erred in reversing the trial court’s judgment that granted the City's exception of no cause of action. The plain language of La. R.S. 13:1888 A mandated only a minimum salary amount that must be paid to the city court clerk and deputy clerks. "The governing authorities have discretion to pay more than the mandated minimum salary. A mandamus action is an incorrect vehicle for the demand asserted by Pineville City Court because the underlying duty is not purely ministerial in nature." Accordingly, the Supreme Court found that the trial court correctly granted the exception of no cause of action. View "Pineville City Court, et al. v. City of Pineville, et al." on Justia Law

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This matter arose from a 2006 class action suit instituted by Steve Crooks and Era Lee Crooks (“Class Plaintiffs”) against the State through the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (“LDNR”) concerning the ownership of riverbanks in the Catahoula Basin and subsequent mineral royalty payments. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to address whether mandamus may lie to compel the State to pay a judgment rendered against it for mineral royalty payments. Finding that the payment of a judgment concerning the return of mineral royalties received by the State required legislative appropriation, an act that is discretionary in nature, the appellate court erred in issuing the writ of mandamus. View "Crooks, et al. v. Louisiana, Dept. of Nat. Resources" on Justia Law