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All Things Legal in Louisiana


January 29, 2009

What exactly is a "bed and breakfast"?

Well, now we know. According to the Madisonville City Council,

• A bed and breakfast must be a one-family dwelling.
• The exterior of the building shall maintain a residential appearance.
• The facility shall be the residence of the operator, who is the owner or leaseholder of the building.
• Rooms may not be rented for more than seven consecutive days, and no more than 15 days per person in any 30-day period.
• A morning meal must be served on premises and included within the room charge for guest of the facility and shall be the only meal provided.
• The facility must meet applicable parish and state health, safety not limited to the Uniform Building Code requirements concerning maximum occupancy and liability requirements.
• One off-street parking space will be required for each rented bedroom in addition to the number of spaces required for each dwelling unit.
• Maximum of four rooms.
I'm glad they cleared that one up. I can now sleep restfully.

Posted by MBC at 10:19 PM

Mandeville police have too much discretion in DWI arrests...

So reads this headline from the Times-Picayune:

A report on how the Mandeville Police Department handles suspected drunken drivers blames an outdated standards manual and inadequate training for giving patrol officers too much discretion in deciding whom to arrest.

The report, by attorney Howard Daigle Jr., was commissioned by the City Council in July after revelations that Mayor Eddie Price was let go by Mandeville police officers in 2006 despite signs that he was driving his city-owned vehicle while intoxicated. . . .

Posted by MBC at 10:14 PM

Ten Things to Know about Louisiana Executive Branch Lobbying

Christopher J. Dicharry at Kean Miller's Louisiana Law Blog has this post about executive branch lobbying. It's good stuff to know.

Posted by MBC at 10:11 PM

Drama in New Orleans: the city council vs. the mayor [new orleans]

CityBusiness reports:

The New Orleans City Council will hold a special meeting and executive session Monday with the hope of reaching a consensus on how to move forward following Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s vow to discontinue funding the full contract of sanitation services in the French Quarter.
In doing so, they are relying on an opinion letter written by Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar, which the Times-Picayune described as follows:
"The Home Rule Charter clearly provides that the (budget) ordinance is a law which the mayor is required to follow, like all other ordinances, " the opinion said. Further, it said, the council can seek a court order to "compel the mayor to distribute and spend funds as required" under the ordinance.
The mayor, in turn, has called any potential suit a "waste of time", relying on an opinion by the City Attorney's Office.

Posted by MBC at 10:06 PM

January 27, 2009

Judge Engelhardt (E.D. La.) profiled by Times-Picayune

The Times-Picayune writes:
Since the very first hearing, marking the start of the Jefferson Parish School Board's tumultuous journey toward systemwide desegregation, the district has repeatedly clashed with one very powerful antagonist.

U.S. Judge Kurt Engelhardt, who is overseeing the process in federal court, has emerged as a major player, much to the bewilderment of the involved parties. Over the past 10 months, the meticulous judge has thrown down a series of challenges, stalling the district's desegregation process, frustrating board members and baffling attorneys with his contrary rulings.

But even while Engelhardt continues to inject drama into the school system's legal battles, he remains an enigma, with motivations that are difficult to read. . . .
Posted by MBC at 03:26 PM

Update: "East Baton Rouge School Board suspends drug-test rule for injured teachers"

So reads this headline from the Times-Picayune.

A Louisiana school board has agreed to suspend a rule that teachers must submit to drug and alcohol tests if they are injured on the job.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana joined the East Baton Rouge Parish Federation of Teachers in challenging the legality of the parish school board's drug testing policy.

An agreement filed Thursday in federal court calls for the school board to refrain from such testing unless it has a reasonable suspicion that a teacher was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while injured on the job.

That agreement will remain in effect pending the outcome of a civil rights lawsuit filed by the teachers union.
I wrote about this earlier, here.

Posted by MBC at 03:18 PM

No stopping the tearing down of the projects

WDSU reports:
A federal appeals court has upheld a judge's refusal to halt the demolition of four public housing complexes in New Orleans that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

A group of displaced public housing residents had asked U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle in June 2006 to block plans to demolish and redevelop the B.W. Cooper, C.J. Peete, St. Bernard and Lafitte developments.

Monday's ruling by a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Lemelle didn't abuse his discretion in denying the residents' request.
The Fifth Circuit's opinion can be read here.
Posted by MBC at 03:13 PM

The Times-Picayune reported earlier this month:
A state appeals court opinion issued Jan. 7 says that it was legal for New Orleans homeowner Brenda Pitts to have filed a lawsuit against Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. months after the deadline for initiating litigation because a class action lawsuit had stopped the clock from running out.

If the unanimous decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal stands, Citizens, the state sponsored insurer of last resort, believes that the ruling will open the door for new people to file lawsuits against the company over their 2005 hurricane claims.
The opinion can be read here.
Posted by MBC at 03:10 PM

January 25, 2009

ACLU backs lawsuit over ticket for racial slur

So reads this headline from WWL-TV.

The ACLU provides more details:
The ACLU of Louisiana enrolled in a lawsuit filed by Johnny Duncan, aka "Johnny UnBlackWorthy," a veteran and resident of Amite who was detained by police because they objected to a sign on his car reading "You Might be a Nigger!." Mr. Duncan, himself an African-American, is the author of a book of political and social commentary entitled "You Might be a Nigger!," and the sign on his car was to advertise the book.

Mr. Duncan was detained outside of an Amite restaurant, where the police told him that the sign on his car was "obscene." When he refused to remove the sign from his car, the officers followed him, detained him by the side of the road for an hour, and issued a ticket under Louisiana's obscenity law. Ultimately the charges under the ticket were rightly dismissed, because nothing on the sign qualifies under the definition of "obscene." . . .

ACLU Legal Director Katie Schwartzmann and cooperating attorney Ron Wilson have entered this case to represent Mr. Duncan. The suit, entitled "Johnny Duncan v. City of Amite, et al," is pending at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Posted by MBC at 05:20 PM

New Orleans domestic partner registry is legal

The Times-Picayune reports:

The city of New Orleans acted legally in the 1990s when it created a registry for same-sex couples and used it as a basis to provide health insurance for the partners of its gay and lesbian employees, a state appellate court ruled last week.
The opinion can be found here.

Posted by MBC at 05:13 PM

January 22, 2009

Louisiana gets high marks from auto safety interest group

The Advocate reportss:

Louisiana is among 15 states to have made progress in enacting key highway safety laws, a report issued on Monday says.

The 55-page study was done by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, based in Washington, D.C.

The group bills itself as one that represents consumer, health, safety and insurance interests to make roads safer.

The report can be downloaded here.

Posted by MBC at 01:11 PM

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten isn't going anywhere just yet

So reads this headline from the Times-Picayune.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten confirmed today that he received an email asking him to remain in his job until further contacted.

Posted by MBC at 01:03 PM

Judge Duval (W.D. La.) set to resign

Houma Today reports:

This year, 66-year-old Stanwood Richardson Duval, who moved to New Orleans in 1994 when his judicial service began, will retire from the court.

Well, almost.

He will continue to oversee litigation related to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. . . .

Posted by MBC at 01:00 PM

Judiciary Committee to continue investigation of Judge Porteous

The House Judiciary Committee will continue its investigation into Judge Thomas G. Porteous, reports WWL-TV. (Background here.)

According to the Congressional Quarterly, the task force will be chaired by Representative Adam Schiff.
Posted by MBC at 12:57 PM

January 16, 2009

Followup: Lafourche Parish drug-testing resolution fails

Houma Today reports:
Lafourche Council members supporting mandatory drug testing of parish employees failed to override a veto of the measure by Parish President Charlotte Randolph last Wednesday night.
Background here.

And, to my amusement,
“Lead by example,” said Councilman Louis Richard. “I’ll be the first person to go get drug tested and pay for my own. I’ll go tomorrow.”

Council members Lindel Toups and Phillip Gouaux said they would do the same within a month. Gouaux pledged to give a copy of his results to the Daily Comet.
The best part?
Some confusion arose during the meeting about the proposal’s implications, if it were to pass.

Randolph said it would affect no one within Lafourche Parish government except the nine council members, because nearly all parish employees, excluding some low-level staff, are already eligible for random drug testing.

Many of her administration’s department heads were tested while employed and all parish workers are tested upon their hiring, Randolph said.

Randolph added that the drug-test results are not released from the screening company, meaning even if council members passed the measure, the public would not know whether a representative was using an illegal substance.

Toups and other council members said this was the first they’d heard of such drug testing being conducted within parish government, and noted that they could have put the drug-test issue to rest last year had they been aware earlier.
Posted by MBC at 02:37 PM

Lafourche Parish car dealerships get raw deal from sheriff's department, AG's office

Houma Today reports:
A handful of south Lafourche companies say they deserve refunds of sales taxes because of a special state program they were involved with.

But Louisiana’s attorney general, in an opinion released last week, took the position that such a rebate is not required by law and that Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is not required to give one.

The Attorney General’s Office had previously concluded that Lafourche Law Enforcement District No. 1, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, would be required to provide the rebate under the Louisiana Enterprise Zone Act if the Parish Council endorsed the rebate.

That opinion has since been recalled.

The new opinion states the Sheriff’s Office would have to first show its approval of the resolution before rebates were possible.

As a result of the ruling, the Sheriff’s Office currently does not have to provide rebate money to Cut Off-based automobile dealer Golden Motors and three Edison Chouest Offshore companies, C-Port, C-Port2 and Galliano Marine Services because the tax money is dedicated for employee salaries.
Posted by MBC at 02:26 PM

N.O. challenging FEMA damage estimates for two NOPD stations

WWL-TV reports:
For more than three years, the City of New Orleans and FEMA have battled over whether New Orleans needs to rebuild or replace both the Fifth District Station and the Seventh District Station in New Orleans East.

“We feel the Seventh District is about 85 percent damaged, and the Fifth District is 75 percent damaged,” said New Orleans Capitol Projects Director Bill Chrisman.

According to FEMA, New Orleans could repair the Fifth District Station for $1 million, but the city argues that it needs to be replaced for $6.5 million, a discrepancy of $5.5 million.

As for the Seventh District, FEMA estimates repair costs at just $750,000, while New Orleans argues it also needs replaced at a cost of $5.5 million.
So the city is appealing.
That appeals process could take months, and could ultimately end with New Orleans taking FEMA to court. . . .

In all, the city argues FEMA should pay more than $1 billion for all 280 damaged buildings, while they say FEMA only wants to fund $350 million worth of repairs or replacements.
Posted by MBC at 02:08 PM

January 13, 2009

ACLU, state settle church-funding controversy

The Times-Picayune reports:
The American Civil Liberties Union agreed Thursday to settle a lawsuit it filed against the state of Louisiana over unrestricted government payments to churches.

The ACLU's Louisiana chapter said the settlement agreement bars the state from funneling taxpayer money without conditions to selected churches that offer non-religious social services. . . .
The ACLU issued a press release on the case in October 2007 (when Judge Vance blocked the payment to a Bossier City church). The complaint is here, and the favorable ruling from Judge Vance is here.
Posted by MBC at 01:46 PM

State Police cracking down on home video poker machines

The American Press (Lake Charles) reports:
State police say they’ve seized more than 2,000 video poker and slot machines — including 35 to 40 in Southwest Louisiana — from private homes over a two-year period. . . .
Posted by MBC at 01:19 PM

Katrina class action suit settled

WDSU reports:

The Lake Borgne District will pay $2.3 million, the East Jefferson District will pay $5.9 million and the Orleans District will pay $12.5 million, totalling nearly $21 million.

But it's not quite final - a "fairness hearing" is set for April 2, 2009. More info here.

Posted by MBC at 01:15 PM

Congratulations, Madame Chief Justice

Kitty Kimball has been sworn in as the new Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Posted by MBC at 01:11 PM

Rules change: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

Raymond Ward, of the (new) legal writer, has the scoop.
Posted by MBC at 01:09 PM

January 11, 2009

Webster, Bossier Parishes cracking down on "parents who have lackadaisical attitudes when it comes to sending their children to school"

So reads the first line of this story from nwlanews.com.

The truancy section of the 26th JDC District Attorney's Office is citing to La. R.S. 14:92.2(A)(2)(b), which provides:
Improper supervision of a minor by a parent or legal custodian, who has care and control of the minor, includes: through criminal negligence, the permitting of the minor to habitually be a truant from school without valid excuse.
Posted by MBC at 02:11 PM

22nd JDC "reshuffled," greater efficiency anticipated

The St. Tammany News reports:

As the new year rings in, court officials at the 22nd Judicial Court serving Washington and St. Tammany parishes have a late holiday gift: court hearings and trial times that may be three percent faster and more efficient than before.

Although long considered, but just recently implemented, court officials on Monday said a “major reshuffling” of judges, prosecutors and clerks is underway. . . .

Posted by MBC at 01:32 PM

Iberia Parish FEMA Appeal

The Daily Iberian reports:
Iberia Parish will file an appeal to FEMA for opting not to pay for workers to go onto private properties and remove large, fallen trees that were caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

At Wednesday’s Iberia Parish Council meeting, Councilman Naray Hulin said the director of debris pickup for FEMA initially said the agency would pay for the service for residents like the elderly who are not able to remove it themselves. FEMA has since denied that specific service.
Posted by MBC at 01:27 PM

East Baton Rouge teacher's union challenging drug testing policy

WJBO reports:
The ACLU and East Baton Rouge teachers' union are suing the parish school board over a teacher drug-testing policy they argue is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit asks a judge to halt further testing until the case is resolved.

At issue is a policy the plaintiffs say subjects any teacher injured on the job to a drug test. They believe that testing without suspicion of drug use amounts to an unconstitutional search.
The ACLU of Louisiana has more information, along with the full text of their motion for a preliminary injunction.

The case is East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, No. 3:08-CV-671-JJB (M.D. La.).
Posted by MBC at 01:23 PM

January 09, 2009

Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office not seeking bankruptcy protection

I was going to get around to posting about the DA saying he was considering filing bankruptcy, but he changed his mind.
Posted by MBC at 02:59 PM

January 08, 2009

Pampy Barre's pension seized

The Times-Picayune reports:
Stan "Pampy" Barre, a key player in a major corruption scandal at New Orleans City Hall, must relinquish his entire remaining state pension, at a rate of $30,000 a year, as restitution for the $1 million he and his co-defendants owe the city they defrauded, a federal judge has ordered.
Background here, here.

The order can be downloaded here.
Posted by MBC at 10:17 AM

Driving with your cell phone [legislation]

The Town Talk (Alexandria) has a roundup up the laws relating to cellphones and driving.

Posted by MBC at 09:53 AM

Patrick Kennedy to serve life in prison

This is no surprise, as his death sentence was overturned. The Advertiser (Lafayette) reports his life sentence.

The other guy who a on death row for child rape will also serve life.

Posted by MBC at 09:50 AM

Jefferson Parish Public School System magnet school admission application program delayed

The Times-Picayune reports:
In a 16-page ruling this week, U.S. Judge Kurt Engelhardt said that converting Hazel Park Elementary into a magnet school would ultimately "impede" the system's progress toward achieving desegregated status. He ordered attorneys working on the district's desegregation process to submit a revised magnet plan within 120 days of Jan. 5, the day he signed the ruling.
The ruling, as well as other documents about the case, can be found on the website of The Jefferson Parish School System.

A press release from the school system reads as follows:
The Jefferson Parish Public School System magnet school admission application program has been temporarily delayed following a federal judge’s ruling on the proposed magnet school plan.

Both the plaintiff’s and school system’s attorneys are in the process of reviewing the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt and will advise the school system as to the next steps in terms of opening the application process.
Posted by MBC at 09:28 AM

January 06, 2009

New trial ordered for murder suspect

The Times-Picayune reports:
Seven years have passed since someone gunned down 18-year-old Leroy Batiste Jr. outside an eastern New Orleans apartment complex.

A jury in 2002 convicted Bruce Taylor and sent him to prison for life. But this past fall, a federal appeals court declared the verdict unfair, saying it was based on a single, shaky witness, no physical evidence and a police officer's second-hand testimony that never should have been allowed.
The federal opinion can be found here.

The story continues:
These days, Taylor, 30, remains in Orleans Parish Prison awaiting a new trial, and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office is preparing to start from scratch.

But his staff might not get a chance to try the case. Public defender Stuart Weg has asked the district attorney's office to step aside because the 2002 trial took place in the courtroom where Cannizzaro presided as judge for 17 years. Weg is asking the court to let the state's attorney general handle the case.
That falls under Code of Criminal Procedure article 680:
A district attorney shall be recused when he:

(1) Has a personal interest in the cause or grand jury proceeding which is in conflict with fair and impartial administration of justice. . . .
The relevant standard, if you're interested, can be found in State v. McBride, 1999-2904, pp. 12-13 (La.App. 4 Cir. 11/29/00), 776 So.2d 546, 551-552.
Posted by MBC at 09:06 PM

New rules apply to judges, lawyers as ’09 begins

So reads the headline of this story from the Advocate.

Here's a gaping loophole:
Judges may accept “ordinary social hospitality,” according to the recently revised Code of Judicial Conduct. However, the total value of food, drink and refreshments should not exceed $50 for each event, including meals, receptions, meetings and other social activities.

“The total value of the food, drink or refreshment provided to the judge shall be determined by dividing the total cost of the food, drink and refreshment provided at the event by the total number of persons invited, whether formally or informally,” the rule states.
Otherwise, judges have to make certain financial disclosures, and non-citizen lawyers may be practice (pro hac vice, I'm assuming) if they have 14 hours of ABA-approved education.
Posted by MBC at 08:15 PM

January 04, 2009

Consumer Choice for Television Act hits small towns [legislation]

The Times-Picayune reports:
Nearly half the state's parishes could lose thousands of dollars in revenue under a recently enacted law that reduces the power of local municipalities to negotiate with cable operators.

The Consumer Choice for Television Act [Acts 2008, No. 433], enacted in August, allows cable providers in many parts of Louisiana to obtain operating licenses from the state instead of local governments, which previously held exclusive power to negotiate licensing rights.

[P]arishes and municipalities also must enact ordinances to compel franchise fee payments -- up to 5 percent of gross revenues -- from cable companies even if the cable companies gain a license from the state.

[T]he law does not apply to larger local governments in the state --such as Orleans, Jefferson and East Baton Rouge parishes and Kenner -- or any that had an existing or adopted home rule charter when the state Constitution was adopted on April 20, 1974. About 40 percent of parishes and municipalities are not exempt and must pass ordinances to continue receiving franchise fees.
And, suit has been filed, challenging the Act:
Local officials argue that the law dilutes their authority over the companies and requires parishes to take special steps to keep licensing money flowing into the parish.

A judge recently denied a challenge to the law by the Louisiana Municipal Association and the Police Jury Association of Louisiana. Police Jury Association lawyer Dan Garrett said the group plans to appeal.
Posted by MBC at 11:10 PM

January 02, 2009

New laws for the new year [legislation]

The Advocate reports: Thirty-three acts of the Louisiana Legislature became law at midnight.
Posted by MBC at 11:01 AM

Update: two fathers listed on birth certificate, appeal [lawsuit]

I reported earlier about an order requiring that two fathers be listed on a birth certificate.

The state is now appealing that decision:
Louisiana officials said Wednesday they plan to appeal a federal judge's order to put the names of two adoptive fathers on the birth certificate of their Louisiana-born son.

"The District Court has ordered Louisiana to do more than what the Constitution requires, and we will ask a federal court of appeals to correct that mistake," state Health Secretary Alan Levine said. . . . "We must respectfully disagree with the idea that New York's adoption law controls how Louisiana administers its own registry of birth certificates and other vital records," Levine said in a statement e-mailed late Tuesday.
Posted by MBC at 10:46 AM
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