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All Things Legal in Louisiana


April 12, 2005

LPSC Employee Ordered Reinstated

The First Circuit ruled that a decision by the Civil Service Commission confirming the firing of a Public Service Commission employee was "arbitrary and capricious." The court ruled that the Commission's policy must be read strictly because of the potential penalties to the employee. The Advocate reports that the employee claims he was fired for cooperating with the Legislative Auditor. The Commission claims the employee was fired for falsifying travel reports.

Posted by AJH at 08:33 AM

March 30, 2005

19th JDC to Replace Civilian Bailiffs

The Advocate reports that the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office will be replacing up to 14 civilian bailiffs with certified deputies. The move is intended to increase security, in response to recent events. The article profiles a few of the bailiffs who will likely lose their positions.

Posted by AJR at 01:40 PM

March 29, 2005

Suit Over Old $100 Bill Reinstated

The First Circuit reinstated a suit against East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputies and Jack in the Box over a detention and investigation into a 1974 $100 bill according to The Advocate. A Southern University student was detained while deputies tried to ascertain the legitimacy of the bill. Lawyers for the Sheriff's Department stated that the First Circuit "missed the point" and the detention was reasonable under the circumstances.

Posted by Capital Clerks at 09:56 AM

March 16, 2005

Sunshine Week Challenge

The Shreveport Times reports that "Louisiana Gannett newspapers are filing suit today against East Baton Rouge Parish's Emergency Medical Services Department seeking release of the 911 tapes that summoned help last month for Secretary of State Fox McKeithen." The East Baton Rouge District Attorney represents EMS and has denied the request citing the privacy protections contained in HIPAA.

Posted by AJR at 08:11 AM

Courtroom Security Concerns Run High

The Advocate reports that eleven 19th Judicial District judges met with members of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office to talk about the security in the downtown Governmental Building on Tuesday. A companion article notes that Sheriff's Deputies and other law enforcement officers are opposed to any requirements that would have them lock up their guns in the courthouse.

On a related note, the Shreveport Times reports that courthouse security is a concern in the Caddo Parish Courthouse, but Caddo Assistant District Attorney Hugo Holland thinks that the courthouse is "one of the best" prepared to handle unexpected events like the one in Atlanta last week.

Posted by AJR at 07:59 AM

March 14, 2005

C-Murder Won't Get New Trial

The Advocate reports that Louisiana's 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned State District Judge Martha Sassone's decision to grant a new trial to Corey Miller, also known as C-Murder. Judge Sassone granted the new trial after learning that prosecutors withheld information from Miller's attorney that some of the state's key witnesses had criminal records. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding an abundance of other evidence to fully establish Miller's guilt.

Posted by AJR at 08:11 AM

March 10, 2005

Ninth Year in Prison Without Trial

Two brothers serving their ninth year in prison without ever going to trial could be out within weeks, according to a report on USAToday.com. A three-judge panel granted motions that could free the two men. In 1996, they were arrested for allegedly killing a man. The Louisiana Attorney General's Office said defense motions and requests for delays dragged out the case.

Posted by Capital Clerks at 11:06 AM

March 03, 2005

Judge Faces Disciplinary Hearing

Judge Pamela Taylor Johnson, an East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court judge, went in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court Wednesday, according to a report in the The Advocate. She was accused of judicial misconduct by the Louisiana Judiciary Commission. The commission recommended that Judge Johnson be suspended for 60 days without pay for allegedly failing to timely sign judgments in three dozen child-support cases, and for allegedly interfering with a retired Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judge appointed by the high court in February 2001 to oversee the administrative functions of East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court. Judge Johnson's attorney, Nelson Taylor, argued that the disciplinary hearing was politically motivated and meant to punish her for helping to create a "politically unpopular" juvenile drug court and drug treatment center. The La. high court has issued no decision yet.

Posted by Capital Clerks at 09:03 AM

March 02, 2005

Iberville Parish Attorney Fired

The Advocate reports that Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso fired parish attorney John W. Wilbert, III after a heated meeting last month. Wilbert has not been replaced.

Posted by AJR at 07:33 AM

March 01, 2005

Blanco Says School Boards Should Be Able to Pray

According to a report in The Advocate Governor Blanco is urging the Tangipahoa Parish School Board to appeal a ruling by a federal district judge declaring prayer at their meetings unconstitutional. The governor said, "I believe that such prayers are entirely appropriate, constitutional and in keeping with a practice in our nation that dates back to the Continental Congress." The court found that prayer at school board meetings is different from prayer to open a legislative session, for example.

Posted by AJH at 07:35 AM | TrackBack

February 28, 2005

No Time to Bill?

The Advocate reports that Randy Zinna, a lawyer who represents the Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System, has neglected to bill $107,000 of his work and expenses to the organization. Zinna is preparing the invoices now--for work that dates back to 2002. "It's my fault," he said. "It's not something I'd like advertised, but I'm not hiding anything. I just haven't gotten the data out yet."

Posted by AJR at 07:55 AM

February 24, 2005

Baton Rouge Ecstacy Trial Making History

WAFB reports that the murder trial of Heather Smith is making legal history. It is apparently the first case being tried under a Louisiana law that says if you provide drugs to a person who dies, you can be charged with murder. The case is being prosecuted by attorney Darwin Miller and defended by attorney Bo Rougeo.

Posted by Capital Clerks at 09:02 AM

February 21, 2005

Former Judge Dies

The Advocate reports that former First-Circuit Judge Wallace A. Edwards passed away at his home on Saturday. Judge Edwards was 28 when he was first elected to the bench in the 22nd Judicial District-- making him the youngest judge ever elected to a Louisiana state court.

Posted by AJR at 08:21 AM

February 17, 2005

Trial Date Set for Accused Serial Killer

WAFB reports that Judge Bonnie Jackson has set the date to begin accused serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis' first degree murder trial for the death of Donna Bennett Johnston. It will be October 11th of this year. Prosecutor Prem Burns says before that trial date, she wants to have the FBI perform new DNA tests using a fresh sample from Gillis. Gillis' attorney, Kerry Cuccia objected in open court, but the judge overruled.

Posted by Capital Clerks at 08:34 AM

February 16, 2005

Courthouse Security in Iberville Parish

The Advocate reports that 18th Judicial District Judge William Dupont and Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso expressed differences in opinion regarding which of them is responsible for providing security at the Iberville Parish Courthouse.

"I invite you to come and watch on court day here. You ought to watch that circus, the people coming and going. Security here is an issue for the judges, not the Parish Council," Ourso said to the Iberville Parish Council.

The debate eventually turned ugly.

Posted by AJR at 07:29 AM

February 15, 2005

AG Opinion Says Livingston Parish Fee Illegal

A report in The Advocate states that a recent Attorney General's Opinion found that Livingston Parish is illegally charging a fee on the transfer of immovable property. The parish charges a $300 tax on the transfer of immovable property within the parish in an effort to stop running the parish on a deficit.

Posted by AJH at 08:35 AM

State Seeks to "Stamp Out Fraud"

The Advocatereports that Governor Blanco will announce a new campaign to educate the public on the costs of fraud to Louisiana. The new website is located at the Department of Labor's site, and it includes information on worker's comp fraud, identity theft, and insurance fraud.

Posted by AJH at 07:47 AM

February 14, 2005

Contractors Vow to Continute Fighting Odom

The News Star reports that state contractors intend to challenge State Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom's practice of using his employees to do construction work on state projects. Specifically, Odom has been flying forestry firefighters, unclassified employees (including his top staff) and even himself from Baton Rouge to north Louisiana to work on a state-financed $45 miillion syrup mill in Jefferson Davis Parish. The Association of General Contractors argues that Odom's practice violates the state's public bid law and is planning to appeal a decision in Odom's favor to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Posted by AJR at 07:12 AM

February 11, 2005

Judge Conducts "Therapeutic Jurisprudence"

The Advocatereports that Judge Don Johnson's method of "therapeutic jurisprudence" may be illegal. Judge Johnson has ordered some people convicted of certain crimes in his court to pay their fines to persons other than the Sheriff. He has ordered defendants to pay the Kiwanis Club, Southern University baseball team, and McKinley High School. The only problem with this is that the Louisiana Law requires that all fines be paid to the sheriff.

Posted by AJH at 08:28 AM

February 01, 2005

Ascension Student May Take Case to Supreme Court

The Advocate reports that an Ascension Parish student may appeal a lawsuit related to his 2001 expulsion all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The student was expelled in 2001 after he drew a picture that appeared to depict a Columbine style attack on his school. The student's appeal was taken up by the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization.

Posted by Capital Clerks at 09:48 AM

January 25, 2005

Odom Trial Delayed by Lack of Oath

The Advocate reports that the trial of Commissioner of Agriculture Bob Odom has been delayed until prosecutor Tony Clayton takes an oath of office and files it with the Secretary of State. The court rejected an argument by East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Doug Moreau that Clayton had already taken several oaths and did not need to have them filed with the Secretary of State.

Posted by AJH at 06:51 AM

January 19, 2005

Former Department of Insurance Employee Pleads Guilty

The Advocate reports that Lylia Jackson, a former employee in the Louisiana Department of Insurance, pled guilty to one count of public bribery. A press release from the Attorney General's web site provides the following details:

Jackson was arrested in December 2003 for taking bribes to sell agent licenses to individuals not legally qualified. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Jackson was placed on two years active supervised probation and fined $500.00 plus court costs. Regina Duncan, an accomplice in this scheme and former Department of Insurance employee, pled guilty in November 2004 to one count of public bribery.

UPDATE: The original story published on The Advocate's site was removed, as it mistakenly indicated that Ms. Jackson was an employee of the Attorney General--a mistake repeated here. Accordingly, the above was corrected to note that Ms. Jackson was indeed an employee of the Department of Insurance. Our gratitude is offered to the alert reader that noticed the mistake.

Posted by AJR at 08:00 AM

August 30, 2004

Alexander Appeal in Court Today

The Advocate reports that oral argument is scheduled for today in Rodney Alexander's appeal. "Alexander was a longtime Democrat who filed to run for re-election as a Democrat on Aug. 4, then refiled as a Republican two days later, just before the deadline to sign up for the race."

Posted by AJR at 07:34 AM

August 27, 2004

Group Wants Victory Off the Case

The Advocate reports that the Forum for Equality Protection has filed a motion seeking to have Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Victory disqualified from hearing the marriage amendment case because of comments he made during a campaign stop at Higher Ground Ministries in Mansfield earlier this month.

Posted by AJR at 07:14 AM

August 26, 2004

Juvenile Justice Program Moves Forward

The Advocate reports that Governor Blanco's effort to reform Louisiana's juvenile justice system is back on track after the state has renewed negotiations with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Posted by AJR at 08:23 AM

August 19, 2004

BR Judge Seals Settlement

The Advocate reports a bizarre story concerning a dispute among board members of the Special Children's Foundation, Inc. The suit, filed by one board member, alleged that the board chairman "had unilaterally shifted the philanthropic focus of [the charity] from helping mentally retarded adults to getting a building named after himself at LSU." 19th JDC Judge Janice Clark sealed the settlement, which apparently requires the Special Children's Foundation to donate almost $500,000 to five charities.

Posted by AJR at 07:36 AM

August 18, 2004

Alexander Suit Moves Slowly

The Shreveport Times reports that US District Judge Frank Polozola will have a meeting in chambers with the attorneys involved in the Alexander dispute this Friday.

Posted by AJR at 07:46 AM

Lee's Public Defender Speaks

Tommy Thompson, the public defender who represented Derrick Todd Lee, believes that Lee's case may end up before the US Supreme Court, reports The Advocate. Thompson says that obtaining Lee's DNA with a subpoena was a violation of Lee's constitutional rights. The article details several other concerns of Thompson.

Posted by AJR at 07:39 AM

August 17, 2004

Gay Marriage Amendment Battle Continues

The Shreveport Times reports that 19th DC Judge Mike Caldwell ruled that a lawsuit challenging Louisiana's proposed gay marriage act is premature. Nonetheless, all signs indicate that the issue will be before the Louisiana Supreme Court before the election on September 18.

Posted by AJR at 08:05 AM

Wagner's DNA Claims Dismissed

The Advocate reports that US District Judge Frank Polozola has adopted the recommendation of US Magistrate Stephen Riedlinger and dismissed a lawsuit filed by Floyd Wagster, Jr. that alleged the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office illegally coerced him into providing a DNA sample during the hunt for Baton Rouge's serial killer. The suit was dismissed because it was filed a year and five days after Wagster provided the DNA sample--five days too late. Jill Craft, an attorney for Wagster, unsuccessfully argued that the search wasn't complete until the DNA was actually tested.

Posted by AJR at 08:02 AM

Alexander Suit Goes to Polozola

The Advocate reports that US District Judge John Brady recused himself from hearing a lawsuit filed against US Representative Rodney Alexander. The case was reallotted to US District Judge Frank Polozola. The case was removed from state court last Friday and the removal has been called nothing more than a delay tactic by Chris Whittington, an attorney representing the state Democratic Party and plaintiff Jeremy Lacombe in the case.

Posted by AJR at 07:57 AM

LADB Recommends Disbarment

The Advocate reports that the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended the disbarment of Broderick DeJean of Opelousas.

The committee said DeJean has made arrangements to make restitution out of an eventual recovery of attorney's fees in a pending case. The committee said he commingled and converted roughly $148,000 in funds from his clients and third parties.
Posted by AJR at 07:52 AM

August 16, 2004

Fight Over Gay-Marriage Amendment Continues

The Advertiser reports that Judge Michael Caldwell is scheduled to hear arguments today in a suit filed by Forum for Equality. The group is challenging a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to ban same-sex marriages in Louisiana.

The article also notes that Orleans Civil District Judge Christopher Bruno blocked the planned vote on the amendment in a similar case on Friday, but has suspended his order to allow the state to appeal directly to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Posted by AJR at 08:12 AM

Lee Sentencing Set for Today

The Advocate reports that convicted killer Derrick Todd Lee is scheduled for sentencing today. Lee was convicted of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Posted by AJR at 08:02 AM

August 11, 2004

Lee Juror Speaks

The Advocate provides a report indicating that DNA evidence convinced the West Baton Rouge jury that found Derrick Todd Lee guilty of murdering Geralyn DeSoto.

Posted by AJR at 08:49 AM

August 10, 2004

Lee Found Guilty

The Advocate reports that Derrick Todd Lee has been found guilty of murdering Geralyn DeSoto.

Posted by AJR at 05:27 PM

August 09, 2004

Public Acces to Court Records via the Internet

A request by the Clerk of Court for Livingston Parish to enter into cooperative endeavor agreement with other clerks of court to use software that allows public access to court records via the Internet has been given an OK by the Attorney General's office. The opinion is not yet available online, so details are not clear. Nonetheless, it looks like more parishes will be joining these clerks of court online.

Posted by AJR at 05:33 PM

Profile of Judge Robin Free

The Advocate profiles Judge Robin Free, who is presently presiding over the first trial of Derrick Todd Lee.

The judge spends much of the time staring into the screen of a laptop computer. Free explained to jurors on Friday that he is paying attention to the trial and that he uses the laptop to review the law.
Posted by AJR at 08:36 AM

Will Lee Represent Himself?

The Advertiser reports that it is not clear who will provide Derrick Todd Lee's defense this week. Lee met with attorneys in the West Baton Rouge Parish public defender's office to determine whether his current attorney, Tommy Thompson, another attorney from the office, or even Lee himself will present the alleged serial-killer's defense. Lee has made complaints that Thompson has not tracked down witnesses who could prove that he was elsewhere at the time Geralyn DeSoto was murdered.

Posted by AJR at 08:34 AM

August 06, 2004

The IT Decision

The Louisiana Environmental Lawyer, a publication of the State Bar Association's Environmental Law Section, has published its Summer 2004 edition [pdf]. The issue features an article I wrote for the section's annual essay contest last year. It details the facts underlying the Louisiana Supreme Court's IT decision, a case which any environmental lawyer in the state is intimately familiar with, and its subsequent and continuing impact on business development in the state today. It's easy reading and should benefit anybody with commercial and/or industrial clients. The following quote evidences the applicability of the topic to present-day construction projects and activities:

The constitutional and statutory construction of the “IT Decision” mandates that environmental factors should be a primary concern when decisions are made that have the potential to impact the environment. In a proper application, the “IT Requirements” should be considered in the very initial stages of a proposed project. Such consideration requires that business partners responsible for developing a business plan or feasibility study coordinate their efforts with environmental staff or consultants. If a court is convinced that an applicant seriously considered the “IT Requirements” when it developed its project, it is much more likely to prevail on a showing that the environmental impact costs have been avoided to the fullest extent possible and that they do not outweigh the social and economic benefits of the proposed activity.
Posted by AJR at 10:18 PM

Derrick Todd Lee Trial Blog

The Advocate is using a blog to provide coverage of alleged serial killer Derrick Todd Lee's first trial. There are still a few kinks to be worked out (e.g., no permalinks and an apparent lack of real-time posting), but this is an experiment to be commended.

Posted by AJR at 10:20 AM

August 05, 2004

Lee Jurors Sworn In

The Advocate reports that six men and six women will serve on the first jury to hear a case against Derrick Todd Lee. Jury selection was finished last night, as court officials swore in the twelve jurors and two alternates around 8:00 p.m. The linked article provides a brief description of each juror.

Opening arguments begin today at 1:00 p.m.

Posted by AJR at 09:36 AM

August 04, 2004

Jury Selection in Lee Trial Continues

The Advocate reports that 11 jurors remain out of the 50 questioned thus far in the effort to seat a jury for the first trial of alleged serial killer Derrick Todd Lee. Judge Robin Free likened Tuesday's proceedings to a game of chess, in which the most-skilled player wins.

Posted by AJR at 10:05 AM

August 03, 2004

Lee Jury Selection Continues

The Advocate reports that jury selection for the first trial of suspected serial killer Derrick Todd Lee continues in West Baton Rouge Parish. "Judge Robin Free, presiding in 18th Judicial District Court, said he felt the law required him to dismiss all 14 people [from a Monday afternoon panel], because they all heard [another potential juror] say that Lee faces charges elsewhere."

Posted by AJR at 01:10 PM

More on Suits Related to Grading Errors

The Advocate reports that at least six lawsuits have been filed against Educational Testing Service as a result of its errors in grading the PRAXIS teacher certification exam. "Kirk Guidry, a Baton Rouge lawyer, said Monday his firm has filed one lawsuit in civil District Court in New Orleans and a second one there in federal court." Furthermore, Guidry thinks the suits might be consolidated in the Eastern District of Louisiana because over 12% of teachers affected nationwide by the foul-up were from this state.

Posted by AJR at 01:07 PM

Fifth Circuit Halts Gas Rules

The Advocate reports that the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal has halted the use of reformulated gasoline in the Baton Rouge area, at least for the next several months. On Monday, the court directed the EPA to evaluate whether the requirement for the gasoline might be waived based on information to be provided by businesses, local governments and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

Posted by AJR at 12:23 PM

LA Industries to Face Heavier Pollution Fines

The Times-Picayune reports that Department of Environmental Quality Mike McDaniel has indicated that his Agency "will steer a middle course between the enforcement levels that brought complaints from industry during Gov. Buddy Roemer's administration in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and what McDaniel said has been the more relaxed enforcement of the past 12 years under Govs. Edwin Edwards and Mike Foster."

"Philosophically, the fines should have enough punitive impact to make the point we don't want a violation of the laws," McDaniel said. "You will see under this administration a little more emphasis on penalties. You are going to see more punitive measures to get out the message that violations are not acceptable."
Posted by AJR at 12:11 PM

July 16, 2004

Cleanup of Hazardous Waste Site Sought

The Advocate reports that residents of Bayou Sorrel have filed suit seeking to have five buried pits of hazardous waste pits cleaned up. Steve Irving, the plaintiffs' attorney, said that the pits were discovered as part of another lawsuit and that this suit was filed when the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality didn't respond to a notification of the problem.

Posted by AJR at 09:14 AM

Gillis' Computer Files Detailed

The Advocate reports that prosecutors have filed a document detailing the files found on suspected serial killer Sean Gillis' (why isn't this guy's middle name used?) computer.

Posted by AJR at 09:10 AM

July 15, 2004

Edwards Continues to Fight (and Lose)

The Advocate reports that Edwin Edwards has lost another bid to get out of jail. US District Judge Ralph Tyson issued a ruling denying Edwards' request to unseal a letter containing allegations of juror misconduct and to interview a former juror and his lawyer who were responsible for writing the letter. In his ruling, Judge Tyson "cites previous case law warning that juries 'should not be exposed to post-verdict fishing expeditions into their mental processes with the hope that something will turn up.'"

Posted by AJR at 10:10 AM

Officer's Discrimination Suit Moving Forward

The Advocate reports that US District Judge James Brady concluded that there is sufficient evidence to allow Mark Martello's discrimination suit against the Baton Rouge Police Department to proceed. Martello alleges he was discriminated against because he was depressed and Judge Brady found that the record was void of any admissible evidence "regarding a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason" that Martello was fired from the department after he refused to accept a desk job instead of returning to the street.

Posted by AJR at 10:05 AM

LA Floral Licensing Causing National Blemish?

The Advocate is of the opinion that Louisiana's licensing system for florists, the only one in the nation, continues to turn up in the national media making the state look bad. Such exposure negatively impacts business because it "paints Louisiana as a place hostile to business."

Posted by AJR at 09:58 AM

July 14, 2004

Dutchtown Teens Not Indicted

The Advocate reports that an Ascension Parish Grand Jury decided that it did not have enough evidence to indict two Dutchtown High School students for planning another Columbine at their school. The case, however, remains open in the event that additional evidence is discovered.

Posted by AJR at 07:57 AM

July 12, 2004

Suit Seeks to end Delays for Alternative Care

The Advocate reports that attorneys with the Advocacy Center are back in the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking to enforce a settlement agreement reached with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals over alternative care arrangements. The settlement provides for an alternative to nursing homes for income restricted individuals that are Medicaid-eligible and age 65 and older, or disabled people 21 or older, who otherwise would qualify for nursing homes.

Posted by AJR at 01:22 AM

July 11, 2004

Another Local Article on Blakely

Judge Polozola on Blakely during a sentencing hearing last week: "Some judges around the country have already declared the guidelines to be unconstitutional, and I'm not certain what the appellate courts will do. I will give you two sentences today. One will be under the guidelines, and one will be without -- just like I did when in the '80s when I came on the bench." The Advocate provides the full story.

Posted by AJR at 08:23 PM

July 09, 2004

Jury Selection for Derrick Todd Lee Slated for August 2

The Advocate reports that jury selection for Derrick Todd Lee's first-degree murder trial in West Baton Rouge Parish is slated to begin August 2. The article also outlines several evidentiary decisions made by 18th JDC District Judge Robin Free.

Posted by AJR at 08:56 AM

Livingston Jury to be Sequestered

The Advocate reports that 21st JDC Judge Bruce Bennett will sequester the jury being selected in the first-degree murder trial of James "Pop" Skinner. Skinner is one of five men accused of kidnapping, beating and killing an Albany High School student in 1998. Juries have already convicted two other defendants in separate trials.

Posted by AJR at 08:51 AM

July 08, 2004

AG Investigating Bogus Press Release

The Times-Picayune reports that the Louisiana Attorney General's office is investigating a Mississippi native for allegedly sending out a fake press release indicating the Governor Blanco was willing to settle the oysterman suit. "The person who did this was certainly trying to influence a certain crowd that the governor wanted to settle the case ... I don't know how many people are out there who still believe that the governor wants to settle the case," Denise Bottcher, Blanco's press secretary stated.

Posted by AJR at 10:46 PM

DEQ issues Emergency Rule for Minor and Moderate Violations

The Office of the State Register has published a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality emergency rule that outlines an alternative penalty assessment mechanism for minor and moderate permit violations. In the past three years alone, the DEQ Enforcement Division has received 8,139 referrals and has issued 4,259 actions. The emergency rule was developed because DEQ's strained budget and resource issues pose an imminent impairment to the Agency's ability to address minor and moderate violations.

Posted by AJR at 03:51 PM

Louisiana Hospitals Sue Government

The Times-Picayune reports that thirteen Louisiana hospitals have joined with hospitals in Mississippi and Alabama to file suit against the federal government claiming they are owed Medicare payments. The suit challenges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' over reliance on a wage index to calculate Medicare payments.

Posted by AJR at 08:12 AM

June 28, 2004

Past Hazing Incident Held Admissible at Trial

The St. Amant community will be closely watching the trial of St. Amant High School Football Coach David Swacker, which is set to begin on July 19. Coach Swacker was charged with failure to report abuse and neglect, a misdemeanor, in connection with the alleged hazing of then-sophomore Jake Savoy. Trial preparations are underway and The Times-Picayune reports that ad-hoc Judge A.J.Kling of the 23rd JDC has ruled that one of two prior hazing incidents can be admitted at trial.

The alleged hazing victim is the son of Ascension Parish councilman Jerry Savoy, who represents St. Amant as part of his constituency. Savoy's wife, Karen, has since formed a national organization--Mothers Against School Hazing (MASH)-- to combat hazing abuses. The Advocate has reported on her efforts here. The Savoy's have also filed a civil suit naming Coach Swacker and the Ascension Parish School Board as defendants.

Posted by AJR at 03:37 PM

June 22, 2004

LSU Law Professor has Torture Connections

The Advocate reports that the attorney responsible for the Justice Department's torture memo is Jay Bybee, a former LSU law professor. Since that time, Bybee has been appointed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Accordingly, LSU shouldn't have to worry about its students reacting in a manner similar to this.

Posted by AJR at 08:42 AM

June 19, 2004

Edwards Won't Get New Judge

The Advocate reports that US District Judge Ralph Tyson has issued a ruling refusing to recuse himself from ruling on whether Edwards conviction should be overturned because of claims that Judge Polozola was impaired by painkillers during Edwards trial. The motion filed by Edwards' attorneys claimed that "a reasonable observer undoubtedly would harbor doubts about whether Judge Polozola's colleagues could decide these types of questions in a fair and impartial manner."

Posted by AJR at 11:23 PM

Fifth Circuit Halts Gas Mandate

The Advocate reports that the US Fifth Circuit has granted a stay in the five-parish Greater Baton Rouge area regarding EPA's mandate that drivers must use specially reformulated gasoline. A hearing will be set next week to consider the local government's suit that claims the requirements will not make the air cleaner and are an undue burden.

Posted by AJR at 11:19 PM

June 15, 2004

Football Network Sued

KATC reports that the Baton Rouge-based Football Network has been sued by a foamer contractor for labor expenses, travel time and rental car costs. The Network, which was subsidized by the state to the tune of over a million dollars only broadcasted for a few weeks and has since shut its doors while it is looking for additional funding.

Posted by AJR at 04:38 PM

Judge Protects DNA Samples from Lee Sweep

The Times-Picayune reports Judge Frank Polozola has extended an order protecting more than 1,200 DNA samples collected during the frantic search for Derrick Todd Lee until the alleged serial killer has been tried.

Posted by AJR at 03:34 PM

June 13, 2004

Attorneys and Advertising

The Advertiser carries a national AP story that profiles Baton Rouge attorney E. Eric Guirard and his advertising practices. The article notes that Guirard, a former stand-up comic, spends seven figures annually to promote his firm.

"E" doesn't stand for anything--thatís my nickname. But if you want to be successful, you have to have that letter out in front of your name,Ē Guirard said. ďWith me, you donít have to remember a name, you donít have to remember a slogan--just remember a letter: E.Ē

Posted by AJR at 01:00 PM

Plantation Chef Files Suit Against Smokey Robinson

The Advocate reports that Nottoway Plantation chef Johnny "Jambalaya" Percle has filed a suit against Motown singer Smokey Robinson for trade-name infringement. Percle, "who has served his fare to the likes of Pope John Paul II, Shaquille O'Neal, the rock band Kiss and two U.S. Supreme Court justices," alleges that Robinson's new food label slogan "The Soul is in the Bowl" violates his catch phrase--"Soul in Yo Bowl"--which he uses in his own food line.

Posted by AJR at 12:36 PM

June 02, 2004

Suicide Note Ruled Admissible as a Dying Declaration

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge Duke Welch will allow the admission of a suicide note allegedly written by a young woman before she committed suicide because it is "highly relevant" to the case. The decedent's parents have filed suit against a fraternity and one of its former members alleging that their daughter was given alcohol and/or drugs and raped at a fraternity party on February 6, 2001. The young woman was found hanged, along with a suicide note, on April 9, 2001.

Greg Rozas, the parents' lawyer, said it is evident that the suicide note was written immediately before her death because in one line she says, "I didn't know it would hurt this much,"--referring to the noose around her neck. The note gives the name of the man she says raped her and details how she tried in vain to get help before she says goodbye to her parents. A trial has not yet been scheduled, and Judge Welch urged the defense to appeal his ruling because he and attorneys in the case could find no other case in the state's history in which a suicide note was allowed as evidence in a civil trial.

Posted by AJR at 07:20 AM

May 17, 2004

Afraid of SBE Liability?

The Baton Rouge Business Report warns its readers to be very afraid of "a risky and little-known experiment" being carried out by Louisiana courts--the corporate liability theory known as the single business enterprise doctrine. The doctrine allows courts to hold parent and sister companies liable for the debts of separately incorporated businesses, without any proof of wrongdoing. Characterized as a veil-piercing mutant, LSU Law vice chancellor Glenn Morris warns that the doctrine created by the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in the Green v. Champion case must be addressed quickly: "Once people have a vested interest in a doctrine, it becomes hard to repeal."

Posted by AJR at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2003

Councilman Sues Schoolboard for Hazing Incident

The Advocate reports that Ascension Parish Councilman Jerry Savoy has filed suit against the Ascension Parish School Board, a high school football coach, and the parents of three students that allegedly hazed Savoy's son. The suit, which was filed on Tuesday, would have prescribed today. Savoy, who was recently re-elected to his spot on the council, claims that he wants to stop future incidents. The school board, however, has already adopted an anti-hazing policy and criminal charges are being pursued against the students responsible for the incident.

Posted by AJR at 08:50 AM

October 14, 2003

9th Circuit Decision to Impact Baton Rouge Plaintiff

The Advocate reports that the fate of more than 1,200 DNA swabs collected in the hunt for Derrick Lee might be impacted by a United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the national law requiring federal convicts to provide blood samples is unconstitutional.

The California opinion addresses a central issue before the federal court in Baton Rouge: Under what circumstances can law enforcement authorities collect, maintain and share DNA profiles to solve crimes?
Attorneys for Floyd Wagster argue that the "voluntary" samples collected during the hunt for the serial killer were not supported by probable cause and that the federal law "is similar in construction and operation." US District Judge Polozola has given both sides four days to file their analysis of the decision.

Posted by AJR at 11:01 PM

September 15, 2003

Justices of the Peace Handle Disputes without Need of Attorneys

The Advocate reports that the six Justices of the Peace in East Baton Rouge Parish collectively handle more than 1,000 cases per year. The article profiles a few of the justices, both of who claim to make little money in the position. Their claims are in stark contrast to a report that ran in The Times-Picayune last year.

Posted by AJR at 11:52 AM

September 10, 2003

Ethics Opinions Posted

The Louisiana Board of Ethics has posted opinions decided at its August meeting. Of specific attorney interest, an advisory opinion was issued regarding whether a part-time City Attorney under contract with the City of Opelousas may continue to provide legal services to the city when her husband's company does business with several city departments.

Posted by AJR at 09:00 PM

September 09, 2003

19th JDC Dismisses Bank's Suit Against Auditor

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge Tim Kelly has dismissed a suit filed by Union Planters Bank against the Baton Rouge auditing firm of Postletwaite and Netterville alleging information in an audit led to its decision to extend a $25 million line of credit to Commercial Capitol Holdings Corp. The dismissal, however, comes with a caveat: Union Planters amended the suit to allege that a 1999 Louisiana law protecting auditors from lawsuits similar to the one in this case is unconstitutional. Accordingly, if the state law is found to be constitutional then the matter will be resolved, but if not, Kelly's dismissal will have no effect on the suit.

Posted by AJR at 07:45 AM

August 28, 2003

Bradys Speaks to Rotary About Deseg Case

The Advocate reports the U.S. Middle District Judge James Brady spoke about the settlement of East Baton Rouge Parish's school desegregation case to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge. Noting that the case should have settled years ago, Judge Brady credited the settlement to a "change in attitude" by all parties.

Posted by AJR at 08:58 AM

August 19, 2003

Lee Funds Request Reasonable

The Advocate reports that several defense attorneys interviewed agree that the $800,000 requested by Derrick Lee's defense team is reasonable, with one indicating that a proper defense might cost $3 million because of the short lead time to trial. The article also notes that the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender's Office has not paid rent for years.

Posted by AJR at 10:28 AM

August 15, 2003

700 New Laws Go into Effect

The Advertiser reports that 700 new Louisiana laws go into effect today. Browse the following links for laws related to legal practice and the judiciary:

House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure
House Criminal Justice
House Judiciary
Senate Judiciary Committee A
Senate Judiciary Committee B
Senate Judiciary Committee C

Posted by AJR at 01:39 PM

Lee Loses Plea for Defense Funds

The Advocate reports that Derrick Lee's request for a defense fund was denied yesterday after an eight-hour hearing in 19th JDC Judge Richard Anderson's courtroom. Judge Anderson suggested that Lee should ask state agencies for the money, rather than mandating the provision of funds.

Posted by AJR at 01:23 PM

EBR Desegregation Case Finally Settled

The Advocate reports that US Middle District Judge James Brady finalized the settlement of the 47-year old school desegregation case in East Baton Rouge Parish yesterday.

Posted by AJR at 01:19 PM

August 14, 2003

EBR Desegregation Fairness Hearing Today

The Advocate reports that US District Judge James Brady will preside over a fairness hearing today before deciding whether or not to sign the proposed settlement of the 47-year old East Baton Rouge Parish desegregation case.

Posted by AJR at 08:28 AM

Lee to Remain before Judge Anderson

The Advocate reports that the First Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Derrick Lee's trial for the murder of Charlotte Pace shall stay before 19th JDC Judge Richard Anderson. The Louisiana Supreme Court has already denied Lee's writ, so pre-trial proceedings will continue for the March 1, 2004 trial date. Lee will be in court today asking for $800,000 to mount his defense.

Posted by AJR at 08:25 AM

August 13, 2003

Unusual Trial Pending in Baton Rouge

The Advocate notes that an interesting trial is shaping up in the Middle District in Baton Rouge where former LSU Professor Mark Johnson is defending charges related to his sale of a deer herd. The paper notes that the trial is not even close to beginning, "but if the preliminary paper sparring between defense attorney John J. Jackson III and assistant U.S. attorneys Corey Amundson and Patricia Jones is any indication, this one is going to be worth the wait."

Johnson was indicted by a federal grand jury in April for passing off his own deer herd as that of LSU so that the potential buyers would believe that they were certified disease-free. The motions have centered on whether or not deer are wildlife, whether Johnson's attorney should be disqualified, and the striking of 10 paragraphs in the indictment.

Posted by AJR at 09:53 AM

Lawyer's Guilty Plea Upheld

The Advocate reports that the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld Baton Rouge lawyer Nina Broyle's guilty plea and resulting prison term for lying about her role in an adoption scheme. The scheme paid pregnant Russian women to come to the United States and give up their babies. Broyle was sentenced to 33 months in prison, significantly more than she expected as a result of her plea bargain. The court, however, noted that "unfulfilled expectations of a lighter sentence do not constitute a fair and just reason for allowing withdrawal of a guilty plea."

Posted by AJR at 09:44 AM

August 12, 2003

19th JDC Judge Pleads Guilty, Gets Fine

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson pleaded guilty to failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle in Baton Rouge City Court last week. In exchange for his plea, prosectors dropped other charges that were pending against him. The charges were the result of Judge Johnson's accident reported here.

Posted by AJR at 08:30 AM

August 08, 2003

Comments Submitted in EBR Desegregation Case

The Advocate reports that four different groups filed comments objecting to the proposed desegregation settlement in East Baton Rouge parish on Thursday--the deadline to file written comments in order to appear at the fairness hearing to be held on August 14, 2003. "Meanwhile, former School Board member and attorney Ronald R. Johnson asked the court to pay him more than $94,000 for more than 500 hours of work at a rate of $175."

Posted by AJR at 08:04 AM

August 07, 2003

Lee to Appeal Ruling on Changing Judge

The Advocate reports that attorneys for Derrick Lee will appeal 19th JDC Judge Richard Anderson's decision to keep Lee's murder trial in his courtroom. The issue appears to be whether custom and practice regarding the changing over of the duty judge take precedence over written court protocols.

Posted by AJR at 08:13 AM

Ascension Parish Courthouse Renovations Near Completion

The Advocate reports that construction of an addition to the East Ascension Parish Courthouse is set for completion at the end of this week. The 32,100 square foot expansion has taken nearly two years to complete. Furntiure and fixtures for the courtrooms, however, will not arrive for several more months.

Posted by AJR at 08:10 AM

August 06, 2003

Shell Offshore to Pay $50 Million in Settlement

The Advocate reports that Shell Offshore, Inc. has agreed to pay nearly $50 million to the federal government for failing to report the fact that it flared almost 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas on one of its platforms located 150 miles south of Morgan City. Federal authorities say the wasted gas could have heated hundreds of thousands of homes for a month.

Posted by AJR at 07:41 AM

August 05, 2003

LA Has Highest Incarceration Rate per Capita

The Advertiser reports that a federal Bureau of Justice report released last month indicates that Louisiana has the highest per capita rate of incarceration in the nation--794 inmates per 100,000 residents. "By contrast, in the 1970s Louisiana had an average rate of confinement of 110 inmates per 100,000 residents," according to Burke Foster a UL Lafayette criminal justice associate professor.

Posted by AJR at 08:29 AM

White Lake Lawsuit Thrown Out Again

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge William Morvant ruled Monday that state sentator Joe McPherson does not have standing to bring a lawsuit against the state and BP Amoco regarding the White Lake deal. Judge Morvant allowed Senator McPherson to amend the suit to show that he had a peculiar or keen personal interest, but still ruled that he did not when there was no allegation that the deal would affect him financially. The ruling will be appealed to the Louisana First Circuit according to McPherson's attorney, Steve Irving. "This is an important issue because it means no public interest group would ever have standing on issues. We didn't come this far to lose," said Irving.

Posted by AJR at 08:14 AM

Judge Anderson Keeps Lee Case

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge Richard Anderson denied a defense motion asking him to transfer the case of Derrick Todd Lee to another judge.

Posted by AJR at 08:08 AM

August 04, 2003

Finding Jury for Lee Will be Difficult

The Advertiser reports the obvious: finding an unbiased jury to judge Derrick Lee will be a challenge. 19th JDC District Attorney Doug Moreau does not expect a decision regarding possible relocation of the trial anytime soon: “If it turns out that during jury selection it becomes obvious that it is impossible to seat a jury, the judge will know it."

Posted by AJR at 08:41 AM

August 01, 2003

Class Action Suit Filed to Get DNA Back

The Advocate reports that a class action suit has been filed against the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Department, the Louisiana State Police and the State Attorney General seeking the return of DNA samples collected during the hunt for the south Louisana serial killer. The named plaintiff, Floyd Wagster, is also seeking punitive damages related to the coercion that accompanied the giving of his DNA. "Assisting in the case is Barry Scheck, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York noted for his landmark litigation on DNA technology."

Posted by AJR at 08:18 AM

July 31, 2003

Eatel Files Suit Against Lucent

The Advocate reports that Eatel Corporation has filed suit against Lucent Technologies seeking recovery of about $1.2 million that it says it paid for software that should have been provided at no cost. "It really is a sad thing, because this is a vendor with whom we've been doing business for a number of years and still have ongoing relationship," Eatel President Dan Ahern said. "But this was a significant amount of money, which we thought we were taken advantage of."

Posted by AJR at 08:21 AM

Who Will Judge Lee?

The Advocate reports that the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office submitted evidence that Charlotte Pace was alive after 12:00 PM on the day that she was killed, a fact that will be at issue in determining which judge presides over the trial of Derrick Lee. At issue is whether the duty court judge, who will be assigned the case, assumed duties at noon on Friday as custom goes in the 19th JDC or whether the written rules, which indicate Monday morning, are applicable.

Posted by AJR at 08:16 AM

July 30, 2003

Rail Worker Files Suit Against KCS

The Advocate reports that a Kansas City Southern Railway switchman injured by a remote-controlled locomotive last March is now suing the company for $3 million. The article notes that several accidents related to the remote controlled cars have occurred at the switching yard.

Posted by AJR at 07:37 AM

Foster Paroles Two

The Associate Press reports that Governor Foster granted a pardon to a terminally-ill inmate and a woman who served 20 years of a life sentence. Cheryle Hayes claims she was framed by the then district attorney after an affair soured. Governor Foster's actions in both cases followed the recommendations of the Pardon Board.

Posted by AJR at 12:31 AM

July 29, 2003

Plea Bargain No Barrier to State Civil Suit

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge Duke Welch ruled that the state can sue former riverboat casino owner Robert Guidry, regardless of the fact that he was granted inmmunity for his testimony against Edwin Edwards. Guidry agreed to pay $3.5 million in fines and forfeitures as part of his plea bargain and argued that the district attorney's agreement should block the state from seeking additional damages.

Posted by AJR at 08:29 AM

July 28, 2003

Baton Rouge Firms Beginning to Market

The Baton Rouge Business Report reports on the marketing efforts of some of Baton Rouge's larger law firms. "Most law firms devote between 2 percent and 5 percent of their gross revenue to marketing efforts," says Kean Miller's Steve Boutwell." The article makes an interesting comparison of these marketing efforts to those of E. Eric Guirard, who spends 25% of his estimated $8 million annual income on marketing and advertising.

Posted by AJR at 07:53 AM

July 25, 2003

Prosecutors Want Five-Year Old to Testify

The Advocate reports that the first-degree murder trial of Edward T. Washington, Sr. was halted yesterday after prosecutors attempted to place the defendant's five-year old son on the stand. The child, who was two at the time of the crime, was the only person to survive an attack in his home in April 2000. The attack left four people dead, including his mother. Judge Bonnie Jackons said it would take all of Thursday afternoon to adequately research the law and indicated that this should have been litigated prior to trial.

Posted by AJR at 08:38 AM

Coach Saban Deposed in LSU Suit

The Advocate reports that LSU football coach Nick Saban gave his first deposition ever on Thursday. The deposition was related to two lawsuits filed by former kinesiology instructors at LSU that allege academic fraud involving the football program. "LSU admitted to five secondary NCAA violations as it completed its investigation and awaits NCAA rulings on its case."

Posted by AJR at 08:33 AM

July 22, 2003

Russell B. Long Chair to be Created at LSU

The Times reports that a contribution made to the LSU Law Center through the estate of the late Senator Russel B. Long will fund a $1.7 million endowed chair in his name. The contribution was the result of a charitable life insurance policy that Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. provided to Long for his service on its board of directors.

Posted by AJR at 08:30 AM

Housing Court Coming to Baton Rouge?

The Advocate outlines a proposed "housing court" in the works in the Baton Rouge City Court. The court would coordinate functions between multiple agencies that are related to landlord/tenant and developer relationships. Further, like it's model the "People's Court," the plans are to televise the proceedings.

Posted by AJR at 08:14 AM

July 18, 2003

Judge Gives Preliminary Approval to EBR School Desegregation Settlement

The Advocate reports that U.S. District Judge Brady gave his preliminary approval to a proposed settlement that will end the 47-year-old desegregation case in East Baton Rouge. The article also provides details on the content of the settlement.

Posted by AJR at 08:11 AM

19th JDC DA: Lee Defense Team should Follow Procedures

The Advocate reports that Doug Moreau, district attorney for the 19th JDC (East Baton Rouge Parish), claims that defense attorneys for accused serial killer Derrick Lee should follow state law in seeking additional funds for Lee's defense. Moreau says that money should be requested from the Louisiana Indigent Defense Assistance Board if the local Public Defender's Office does not have the money to provide a defense.

Posted by AJR at 08:07 AM

July 16, 2003

Things Get Interesting in EBR Desegregation Case

The Advocate reports that counsel for the original plaintiffs in the East Baton Rouge desegregation case, Gideon Carter and Norman Chachkin, have been granted approval to withdraw from the case. Although a memorandum of understanding has been signed by all of the parties, a final settlement has not been reached. It is unclear as to why the attorneys intend to withdraw, but the article indicates that at least one of the plaintiffs is unhappy with the proposed settlement.

Posted by AJR at 07:18 AM

July 15, 2003

Three 19th JDC Judges Out

An editorial by The Advocate outlines problems that judges in the 19th JDC are experiencing, thereby requiring that they take time away from the bench. Three separate judges have been out for an extended period of time: (1) Judge Mike Erwin has recently undergone successful hip replacement surgery; (2) Judge Wilson Fields has been fulfilling his duties as a judge advocate general in the Louisiana National Guard; and (3) Judge Don Johnson is apparently taking a month-long vacation.

Posted by AJR at 07:19 AM

EBR Desegregation Court Monitors Out of Job

The Advocate reports that Judge Brady has suspended the work of two of three court monitors assigned to the EBR Parish school desegregation case as the case appears headed towards a final settlement. The article provides a brief history of the relationships that the monitors had with the school community

Posted by AJR at 07:04 AM

June 27, 2003

US Supreme Court Sodomy Ruling to Impact Louisiana

The Times-Picayune reports that Richard Ieyoub released a statement that says Louisiana's law banning consensual oral and anal sex "would be unenforceable" except for provisions that ban the acts of sodomy with prostitutes and animals.

The Times-Picayune also reports on the reactions to the United States Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Texas laws.

Posted by AJR at 06:59 AM

EBR Council on Aging Rejects Settlement Offers

The EBR Council on Aging board met Thursday and rejected a settlement offer from its former executive director regarding the Rosewood Plantation, reports The Advocate.

In September 2000, the board fired its longtime executive director, Sharon LaFleur, after she was accused of mismanaging a $1.1 million charitable trust fund that is now depleted. Council on Agency officials claimed LaFleur used more than $1 million from the fund to acquire, renovate and operate Rosewood, which at one time was her personal residence.

The board has asked its attorney to quickly seek a trial date.

Posted by AJR at 06:50 AM

FBI Disputes ABC News Report

The Advocate reports on a letter the FBI sent to ABC News regarding the Primetime story on the serial killer investigation. The letter indicates that the report was "outside the realm of fact" and addresses many of the comments and conclusions offered by the show. The 5-page letter is available here on the Task Force Web site.

Posted by AJR at 06:46 AM

NAACP Encourages Participation in Baton Rouge Schools

The Advocate reports that the president and lead attorney of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP, Alvin Washington, encouraged an audience to look beyond legal solutions and to focus on getting involved in local education. The NAACP executive committee will meet to vote on the agreement at 6:00 p.m. Monday evening.

Posted by AJR at 06:38 AM

June 26, 2003

Task Force had DNA Information in January

The Times-Picayune reports that a California scientist claims to have told investigators in mid-January and again in early February that the serial killer's DNA showed a high probability that he was black. Charles Brenner says that he told the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office that "Caucasians would be the last people I'd look at." The Serial Killer Task Force announcement that urged the public not to focus on white men as suspects was made on March 21, 2003.

Posted by AJR at 07:16 AM

Lee Indicted on one Count of First-Degree Murder

The Advocate reports that Derrick Lee was indicted on one count of first-degree murder yesterday, in connection with the rape and killing of Charlotte Pace. 19th JDC DA Doug Moreau and First Assistant DA John Sinquefield indicated that they brought Pace's case first because it had evidence of "better quality and better quantity." The article also reports on a few motions filed on behalf of Lee, one of which requests more funds for his defense. Without this money, Mike Mitchell with the Office of the Public Defender, says that Lee's defense would be "inadequate and unconstitutional."

Posted by AJR at 07:09 AM

The Advocate Questions $60 Million Price Tag

The Advocate provides an editorial concerning the proposed 19th JDC courthouse. Specifically, it notes that the $60 million price tag is pure speculation and subject to change. Nonetheless, the opinion provides a few more details regarding the legislation and the proposed project: (1) that it hinges on a federal donation of the post office site on Florida Street; (2) that the fees would double if construction bids are let; and (3) that the fees would expire if construction bids are not let within two years.

Posted by AJR at 07:00 AM

June 25, 2003

21st JDC Judge Awards Plaintiffs $91.9 Million

The Advocate reports that 21st JDC Judge Wayne Chutz awarded plaintiffs in the 1983 Tangipahoa Parish flood $91.9 million in damages. The Louisiana DOTD, the defendant in the case, will appeal. The plaintiffs argued that DOTD restricted natural drainage in Tanhipahoa Parish when Interstate 12 was built.

Posted by AJR at 07:24 AM

June 24, 2003

Voters to Decide When Judges Retire

The Times-Picayune reports that voters will decide this fall whether judges may stay on the bench past their 70th birthday.

The proposed constitutional amendment came in House Bill 19 by Rep. Mickey Frith, D-Kaplan, which the Senate approved 27-9 Monday. It would let judges finish their term even after turning 70, currently the maximum age allowed.
Posted by AJR at 07:24 AM

Judge Upholds Verdict for Former LSU Track Coach

19th JDC Judge Kay Bates upheld a $773,000 award in Loren Seagrave's, a former LSU track coach, case against the University, reports The Advocate. Following the decision, LSU indicated that it will appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

In a somewhat related case, The Advocate also reports that a tenured Asian professor is suing Southern University claiming that he was demoted and replaced with a black colleague.

Posted by AJR at 07:13 AM

EBR Desegregation Plan Gets OK from DOJ

The Advocate reports that the US Department of Justice has given its approval to the EBR Parish School Board's "agreement in principle" that was reached last week. "The other parties that need to sign off on the agreement include the School Board, the local NAACP chapter and the original 1956 plaintiffs."

Posted by AJR at 07:06 AM

June 23, 2003

19th JDC Courthouse Bill Passes Legislature

The Advocate reports that the Legislature passed a revamped plan to finance a new $60 million courthouse for the 19th JDC. The original bill, which was defeated earlier in the session, was resurrected when it was amended to a bill designed to set up a judicial expense fund in East and West Feliciana Parishes.

Posted by AJR at 07:31 AM

June 19, 2003

EBR School Degregation Talks Successful

The Advocate reports that the parties involved in the 47-year-old East Baton Rouge Parish public school desegregation case agreed to a settlement regarding their remaining differences.

"What we are saying is we have reached an agreement in principle that will end the federal court supervision of the school system," Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said, as the parties emerged after nine hours of talks Wednesday.
Posted by AJR at 07:34 AM

June 11, 2003

Louisiana Enron?

The Business Report provides coverage of the pending trial between the United Companies bankruptcy receiver, William Hays, and the failed company's auditor, Deloitte and Touche.

Like the Enron scandal," Hays claims in court papers, "it (his lawsuit) alleges that one of the country's largest audit and accounting firms engaged in fraud, deceit and other misconduct while lining its pockets with millions of dollars in fees."

"The 'big boys' left Louisiana with their 'ill-gotten treasures' and went back to New York City, leaving the employees of United Companies and their families holding the empty bag," Hays claims.

Posted by AJR at 07:49 AM

Dispute Arises in Class Action

Class members in a lawsuit against Colonial Pipeline Co. are complaining that many class members fraudulently joined the suit, many after the $9 million settlement was reached, reports The Advocate. One plaintiff, Gwendolyn Atkins, said, "People who have suffered fear of contamination have to share the money with 'persons who were not remotely affected.'"

Posted by AJR at 07:28 AM

Charges Filed in St. Amant Hazing Incident

The Advocate reports that the 23rd JDC DA has filed bills of information against the St. Amant High School Football Coach and three former players who recently graduated. The charges arise from a hazing incident last fall.

Posted by AJR at 07:20 AM

June 10, 2003

Senate Panel Rejects Fund for New 19th JDC Courthouse

The Advocate reports that the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee rejected a proposal to finance up to $60 million for a new courthouse in the 19th JDC (Baton Rouge). The bill had full support in the house and another Senate Committee last week.

Sen. Bill Jones, D-Ruston said recent studies have concluded that court costs in Louisiana are out of control. Rising court costs are in danger of denying citizens access to the judicial system, he said.

Posted by AJR at 07:27 AM

June 09, 2003

Several Articles about Lee

The Town Talk reports that prison life is nothing new for Derrick Lee and also reports that money will be a big issue in his defense. The Advertiser reports that the victims' families want the death penalty for Lee.

Posted by AJR at 07:22 AM

June 05, 2003

Man Who Plotted to Kill State Judges Being Released

Middle District Judge James Brady has ordered the conditional release of Kelly Donald Gould, a Denham Springs man once accused of plotting to kill two state judges, reports The Advocate . The release was granted because if Gould remains in prison until his trial his pretrial detention could exceed the potential sentence he faces if convicted. "All together, Gould is looking at 42 months in prison on a gun possession charge, without benefit of a trial," Brady wrote. "If Gould pled guilty today, the court could sentence him to only 41 months. In these unusual circumstances, the court cannot allow pretrial detention to continue." The short sentence results from illegally-obtained evidence being excluded from trial.

Posted by AJR at 08:11 AM

Plaquemine Mayor and Court Settle Differences

Plaquemine Mayor Tony Culotta and City Court Judge William Dupont have resolved a funding dispute that led to a judgment in the 18th JDC ordering the City to pay all of the City Court's reasonable expenses requested in the budged, reports The Advocate.

Issues involved whether the city would pay court costs and attorney fees incurred by the court when filing the lawsuit, whether the city would be held in contempt for allegedly not following the judge's original ruling and whether the judge would grant a new trial

The resolution will result in the dismissal of a motion for contempt of court filed against the City.

Posted by AJR at 08:06 AM

State Loses Attempt to Deny Investigation of Juvenile Conditions

The Advocate reports that Middle District Judge James Brady has given approval to state juvenile court judges to proceed with hearings that will explore conditions at Louisiana's prisons for youthful offenders in Tallulah and Bridge City. The ruling denied a state attempt to block the hearings.

Basically, the juvenile court judges can decide whether individual juveniles are being mistreated at the prisons and can order the juveniles removed from the prisons. What the juvenile court judges cannot do is order the state to fix the prisons, Brady wrote.

Posted by AJR at 08:01 AM

Lee Prosecutors Named

The Advocate reports that East Baton Rouge Prosecutors John Sinquefield and Dana Cummings have been assigned the task of prosecuting accused serial killer Derrick Todd Lee. "John and Dana will end up handling the case at trial, that's kind of my guess right now," District Attorney Doug Moreau said. "I have said many times that I think John Sinquefield is one of the best capital case prosecutors in the country." The East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office has the record to prove it, scoring an 83% capital punishment conviction rate since Moreau entered office, according to a WAFB broadcast last night.

Posted by AJR at 07:57 AM

Judge Holds Court to Order All Defendants to Return in August

The funding dispute between the Sorrento Town Council and Police Department made life a little more difficult for defendants attending a session of Ascension Parish Court on Wednesday, reports The Advocate. Because of a budget shortfall at the end of the fiscal year, the Sorrento Police Department's secretary was not present and unable to collect the money. Accordingly, Judge Marilyn Lambert ordered all defendants to return in August: "By then, the new fiscal year will have begun, and they will have the money to pay people to collect money."

Posted by AJR at 07:53 AM

June 03, 2003

Baton Rouge Man Sues for His DNA

The Times-Picayune reports that Shannon Kohler, the individual compelled to provide his DNA to the serial killer task force last fall, has filed suit for the return of his DNA sample.

Baton Rouge lawyer Dennis Whalen is representing Kohler in efforts to persuade a 19th Judicial District judge to order Kohler's DNA returned. "It's a routine motion to get back your property that's been taken in the search warrant," he said.

Posted by AJR at 07:43 AM

May 29, 2003

Southern's Chancellor Cites Diversity's Benefits

The Advocate updates a recent story that reported criticisms of increasing white population at Southern University Law Center.

Southern Law Center Chancellor Freddie Pitcher Jr. said the school's diversity -- 65 percent black, 33 percent white and 2 percent other races -- deserves credit, not criticism.

Southern does not use race as a factor when sorting through the 1,300 to 1,400 applications it receives each year to fill 150 freshman slots.

Posted by AJR at 07:23 AM

May 28, 2003

Lee Caught!

Again, news around the state focuses on the capture of Derrick Todd Lee. Findlaw has posted a copy of his arrest warrant.

Posted by AJR at 07:20 AM

May 27, 2003

Serial Killer Identified

The news this morning is obviously focussed on yesterday's break in the south Louisiana serial killer case. Here is the FBI's Most Wanted page for Derrick Todd Lee.

Posted by AJR at 06:46 AM

May 22, 2003

Study: Lawsuits Lead to Higher Insurance Premiums

The Advocate reports on the results of a state Insurance Department that indicates Louisiana drivers "pay higher premiums than drivers in Mississippi or Alabama, possibly due to being a little lawsuit-happy."

In order of highest to lowest, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport lead a grouping of cities from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas in average premiums, he said.

Apparently, Louisiana drivers make injury claims at double the national average.

Posted by AJR at 07:11 AM

May 20, 2003

"Hypertechnical" Mistake Costly to Contractor

State District Judge Morvant ruled that the state properly refused to award a contract to Ratcliff Construction Co. even though it submitted the apparent low bid but failed to have one of its officials initial changes in the bid package reports The Advocate. Ratcliff's attorney says the decision to deny the bid is arbitrary because similar mistakes have been accepted in the past. Judge Morvant, however, said he was not going to base his decision on past actions of state officials. "Whether they have done it wrong 1,000 times doesn't make this one correct," Morvant said.

Posted by AJR at 07:16 AM

Remaining Edwards Charges Dismissed

The Advocate reports that United States Attorney Jim Letten requested District Judge Polozola to dismiss eight untried counts in the indictments against Edwin Edwards and his cohorts. "I can't say I had given a lot of thought to these charges until the clerk's office reminded us that they were out there, and we needed to clean up the record," Letten said Monday. "In the most technical way, the book was closed very firmly the day the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeals."

Posted by AJR at 07:08 AM

May 16, 2003

Plaquemine to Ask for New Ruling

Plaquemine Mayor Gullotta will ask 18th JDC Judge James Best to reconsider his April ruling ordering the city to pay nearly all of the City Court's budget requests, reports The Advocate. The $60,000 judgment was the result of a suit filed by City Court Judge William Dupont. The decision to return to Judge Best was made at an executive session on Tuesday, where the selectmen attempted to resolve their budget problems.

Posted by AJR at 07:17 AM

May 15, 2003

Gun Laws Not Enforced

The Advocate reports on a national gun safety study that finds most federal laws are not enforced in Louisiana. The study found that just two statutes, which each target street criminals in possession of weapons, account for the vast majority of federal gun prosecutions.

"We don't fault federal authorities for taking up the felony possession and drug trafficking cases," said Matt Bennett, director of public affairs for the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based private organization that advocates for gun ownership rights and stronger enforcement of firearms laws.
"But we don't want them to give up on the other 20 statutes designed to prevent criminals from getting those guns in the first place."

Not surprisingly, most firearms cases are handled in state court, so the numbers arguably fail to provide an adequate representation of the gun enforcement picture. The Times-Picayune reports that U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in New Orleans has adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for people who lie on criminal background checks to buy firearms in response to the study.

Posted by AJR at 07:04 AM

May 14, 2003

New U.S. Attorney's Office Liaison in Baton Rouge

The United States Attorney's office has appointed Steven Woodring, a retired Baton Rouge police lieutenant, to act as its liaison with state and local law-enforcement agencies reports The Advocate.

In addition to acting as a liaison among law-enforcement agencies in matters of federal concern, Dugas said, Woodring also will assist in coordinating the Anti-terrorism Task Force, the Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force and other cooperative efforts.

Posted by AJR at 07:15 AM

State Budget Cuts Might Result in Federal Suit

The Advocate reports that budget cuts in services for the developmentally disabled might result in a United States Department of Justice lawsuit, according to state DHH Assistant Secretary Raymond Jetson. Louisiana is already in trouble with the Justice Department regarding its handling of facilities in Pinecrest and Hammond, and pressure by the department has increased as of late. Governor Foster's budget proposes to cut $16 million from the Louisiana departmental disabilities funding.

Posted by AJR at 07:12 AM

Brady to Hear Juvenile Case on Friday

State attorneys will be in Judge Brady's United States District Court on Friday seeking to prevent juvenile court judges in 12 jurisdictions throughout the state from deciding if they should pull their juvenile offenders from the troubled Bridge City and Tallulah prisons, reports The Advocate.

The proceedings are pending in juvenile courts in East Baton Rouge, Orleans, Caddo, Lafayette, Evangeline, Calcasieu, Jefferson, Concordia and Lafourche parishes and city courts in Plaquemine, Rayne and Hammond.

The issue is a result of the May 1 death of Emmanuel Narcisse, 17, who died during a scuffle with a corrections officer at the Bridge City prison. The article reports on the flurry of motions that have arisen since.

Posted by AJR at 07:07 AM

May 02, 2003

Baton Rouge Police Ticket 19th JDC for Hit and Run

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson was cited for misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run, failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle and driving without proof of insurance after he smashed head-on into a utility pole Wednesday night and left the scene of the accident. "According to a witness, Johnson smelled strongly of beer, Kelly said, but added that whether alcohol played a role in the crash is impossible to know."

Posted by AJR at 11:02 AM

April 30, 2003

LA Supreme Court Permanently Disbars BR Lawyer

The Advocate reports that the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously decided to permanently disbar Eddie G. Crawford, a Baton Rouge lawyer who has been continuously suspended from practicing law since 1994. Crawford, who was admitted to the bar in 1983, engaged in "multiple instances" of the practice of law while under suspension-a fact that he did not dispute.

Posted by AJR at 11:31 AM

April 29, 2003

Southern University Law School too White?

The Advocate reports that State Representative Arthur Morrell, Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, expressed concern that growing white enrollment at the Southern University Law Center might be keeping out black applicants. "That school was created for a reason, and if that reason is dissipating, what's going to happen to the minorities who want to attend law school but can't get in?" Morrell asked.

Posted by AJR at 09:40 AM

April 28, 2003

Ascension Sheriff's Office Getting Wired

The Advocate reports that the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office and the Gonzales Police Department have recently added laptops with remote access to their arsenal of crime fighting weapons. "Now, the officers can punch a license plate number or someone's driver's license number into the computer, and a complete history of the motorist pops up on the screen in a matter of milliseconds, [Chief Bill] Landry said." And for the cynical-minded, the article was sure to note that the officers won't be wasting time since there is no Internet access or card games on the computers.

Posted by AJR at 02:20 PM

April 25, 2003

Unfair Real Estate Practices Alleged in Lawsuit

The Advocate reports that Brandy Farris Real Estate has filed suit against C.J. Brown Realtors, Burns and Co., Inc. and the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors alleging claims of unfair trade practices, antitrust violations and other questionable business dealings. Farris alleges that the defendants have conspired to fix real-estate commissions at six percent and have disparaged her company for implementing a "flex" policy where commissions might vary from three to seven percent.

Posted by AJR at 07:07 AM

April 24, 2003

Lawyer Argues State Can Escape Prison Deal

The Advocate reports that a Washington, D.C.-based bond attorney, Richard Marks of Piper Rudnick, representing the State Juvenile Justice Commission (pro bono) has identified a potential for the state to avoid fulfillment of its contract with the privately owned juvenile prison in Tallulah. The state has already threatened to end its obligation under the contract, but changed its mind after Standard & Poor's threatened to lower the state's credit rating.

Marks believes that Standard & Poor's might be more understanding if the cooperative endeavor agreement was determined to be illegal. "Marks said the state cannot bring the matter to court, but attorney David Utter said a private resident or organization could do so."

Posted by AJR at 10:14 AM

Plaquemine Judge Wins Budget Battle

The Advocate reports that City Court Judge William Dupont prevailed in his lawsuit against the City of Plaquemine. Judge Dupont sued the the city after the board voted in December against allocating $30,000 in the budget for court employees' salaries. "For us to be able to [pay], programs are going to have to be cut and people laid off," Plaquemine Mayor Tony Gulotta said. "Nobody wants to see his (Dupont's) programs cut, but we're going to have to sacrifice ours."

Posted by AJR at 10:06 AM

April 23, 2003

Judge Dismisses Request to Remove DA Office in Smothers Case

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge Mike Erwin dismissed a request by lawyers for Henri Broadway, who was convicted of killing police Officer Betty Smothers, to remove the District Attorney's Office from his appeal. The defendant alleged that Prosecutor Prem Burns withheld information during trial and that she is personally involved with the victim's family. "Burns said that she resents that "anti-death penalty zealots" are trying to dirty her reputation."

Posted by AJR at 07:22 AM

April 16, 2003

Dow to Pay $2.4 Million to Settle with LDEQ

The Dow Chemical Company in Plaquemine has reached a settlement agreement with the LDEQ related to air, water, and hazardous waste violations dating back to 1996, reports The Advocate. The settlement is structured so that Dow will pay $1 million in cash to the state and $1.4 million to other assorted community projects.

Posted by AJR at 08:40 AM

April 15, 2003

Baton Rouge Businessman's Will At Issue

The Business Report features an article outlining the dispute concerning the will of former Baton Rouge businessman Wilbur Marvin. Marvin, who made millions as a self-made real estate man, willed the vast majority of his company, Commercial Properties Development, Corp., to the Baton Rouge Foundation. His decision left only a tiny fraction of his wealth for his family and also avoided massive inheritance taxes, thereby preserving the company that he so lovingly built. The article provides an overview of Marvin's life and also outlines the legal issues involved in the dispute--primarily his domicile and capacity at the time of writing a new will prior to death.

Posted by AJR at 10:07 PM

Judge Dismisses White Lake Suit

The Advocate reports that 19th JDC Judge William Morvant dismissed a suit filed against the state by Senator Joe McPherson to block the donation of the White Lake preserve by BP Amoco. Judge Morvant ruled that Senator McPherson lacked standing. Steve Irving, McPherson's attorney, indicated that the ruling will be appealed.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mike Foster's press secretary, Marsanne Golsby, said the ruling is welcomed news. Quoting Foster, Golsby said that if the federation is allowed to intervene and prevails, "people should remember that BP Amoco might take back that property and give it to someone else."

Posted by AJR at 10:31 AM

April 14, 2003

HIPAA Begins Today

The Advocate reports that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) goes into effect today. The article provides a nice overview of what the act provides for patients and the associated burdens it places on healthcare providers.

"I don't think anyone would argue that this is going to be a burden," said Gregory Frost, an attorney with Adams and Reese LLP who has spent the last two years working with health-care providers in Louisiana to implement the new regulations. "But it's the price we pay for administrative simplification, and it's important to understand it in that context."

The Times-Picayune also reports here.

Posted by AJR at 08:32 AM

April 09, 2003

Suit to Challenge Defense of Poor

The Advertiser reports that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has filed suit in five parishes (Caddo, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Orleans and still to be determined) challenging Louisiana's system of providing the poor with legal counsel. The article notes that the Louisiana system violates nine out of 10 national standards set by the ABA.

Posted by AJR at 08:14 AM

April 07, 2003

EBR Seeking New Courthouse

Concerns over improving security in the East Baton Rouge Governmental Building have prompted court officials to seek funds for construction of a new stand-alone courthouse for the 19th JDC and East Baton Rouge Family Court, reports The Advocate. Chief Judge Kay Bates said a visiting U.S. Marshal recently told her the parish has the least secure courthouse in the country that he has visited. A bill has been filed in the legislature that will raise court fees in order to cover some construction costs. House Bill 445 sets limits on fee increases, which are reported in the article.

Posted by AJR at 08:45 AM

Former EBR Council on Aging Director Avoids State and Federal Charges

The Advocate reports that Sharon LaFleur, the former director of the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, has yet to face any criminal charges three years after she was fired from her position. Agency officials discovered LaFleur allegedly used more than $1 million from a charitable trust fund to acquire, renovate and operate Rosewood, a plantation-like estate in Ascension Parish. A civil suit which will determine who own/controls Rosewood is pending in the 23rd JDC.

Posted by AJR at 08:37 AM

April 03, 2003

EBR Argues Ex-Director Breached Duty

The Advocate reports on the East Baton Rouge City-Parish response to a lawsuit filed by former human resources director Jerald Boykin, who was fired when he alleged systematic discrimination in city-parish government. Jill Craft (her husband is crafty), who represents Boykin, argues that he was dismissed in violation of the state whistle-blower protection laws. The City-Parish, however, responds by saying that Boykin breached his fiduciary duty by releasing a report critical of the administration to the public and by failing to address the very problems he identified in the report from his position as human resources director.

Posted by AJR at 09:06 AM

March 28, 2003

Foster Considers Joining anti-French Bandwagon

Not to be outdone by boy wonder, Governor Foster indicated that he is considering withdrawing the state's invitation to French President Jacques Chirac to attend the December 20 closing ceremonies of the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial celebration, reports The Times-Picayune.

"People are really fed up with France," Foster said on his [Thursday afternoon radio] show. "We have good relationships with the French people. They must have slipped up and elected somebody who doesn't like us."

In other news, little Tommy successfully petitioned his mother to revoke Johnny Smith's invitation to Tommy's birthday party after Johnny wouldn't let him play with his new football.

Posted by AJR at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

EBR DA Seeks Reinstatement of Charges Against Odom

The Times-Picayune reports that EBR prosecutors were at the First Circuit Court of Appeal asking the court to restore charges tossed out by 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson, who has thrown out part or all of the 10 counts of alleged wrongdoing against Odom. "One of the key issues discussed Thursday is whether Odom can be charged with felony theft for having agriculture department staff work on his personal projects while being paid by the state."

Posted by AJR at 07:05 AM

March 26, 2003

Family Sues Baton Rouge Zoo

The Advocate reports that Randy Svara has filed suit against the Baton Rouge Zoo after his family's trip to the petting zoo turned into a struggle with a cow. "While at the petting barn, the cow grabbed his son's arm with its mouth and pulled the child's arm through the fence, the suit says." It is further alleged that the child's speech patterns and sleep have been affected by the incident.

Posted by AJR at 08:00 AM

March 21, 2003

Donaldsonville Mayor's Hiring of Assistant Deemed Illegal by AG

The Advocate reports on yet another dispute between Donaldsonville Mayor Raymond Jacobs and the City Commission Council. In the current dispute, the state Attorney General agreed with Donaldsonville City Attorney Chuck Long's opinion that Jacobs hiring of an administrative assistant was improper because he failed to gain council approval to adjust the budget. Long says the action is sufficient cause for removal of office, however, Jacobs seems unconcerned about such a result. "Jacobs said his next step would be to meet with Long, look over exactly what his request was to the Attorney General's Office and then send his own response to Ieyoub."

Posted by AJR at 07:41 AM

March 18, 2003

Tracking the Serial Killer and Probable Cause

The Advocate reports that some Baton Rouge defense lawyers may contest the manner in which the serial killer task force has collected DNA samples from suspects. "I had the impression they were going down the usual suspect list," said Frank Holthaus, an attorney who had three clients tested. "There was no real probable cause in either case. None." "Baton Rouge police, the lead agency for the task force, say the methods they've used are legal and have been cleared with legal counsel for the department."

Posted by AJR at 10:21 AM

March 17, 2003

A Few Articles from the Sunday Advocate

The Advocate had two interesting articles in Sunday's paper. The first article reports on the legal fees associated with the East Baton Rouge Parish school system desegregation case. The system has spent $600,000 so far this year and has paid roughly $7.5 million to lawyers, consultants and court monitors since the 1995-1996 fiscal year, when the School Board entered into an agreement, or consent decree, with the plaintiffs in the case."

The second article provides an overview of the first eighteen months of David Dugas', the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, appointment in Baton Rouge.

Posted by AJR at 09:06 PM

Committee Attorney Barred from Scheduled Prison Tours

David Utter, an attorney and executive director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, is crying foul after state officials have barred him from taking prison tours with the Juvenile Justice Commission advisory committee, reports The Advocate. "Corrections officials said they yanked Utter's invitation because he is one of the plaintiff attorneys in civil-rights lawsuits against the state over prison conditions."

Posted by AJR at 08:27 AM

March 14, 2003

Student Sues LSU Over Booting

Kenneth Hopkins, who is blind and an 'A' student ranked in the top of his class, was booted from the LSU Computer Rehabilitation Program for being too "disabled," reports The Advocate. Hopkins has filed suit seeking to remain in the program. "Until the courts resolve the issue, Hopkins continues to attend classes on a judge's order. Success will be felt, he muses, only if it prevents more disabled students from experiencing the same fate."

Posted by AJR at 07:51 AM

Ascension Strippers Get Naked

The Ascension Parish Council voted to override Parish President Harold Marchand's veto of the council's action to weaken a recently passed ordiance regulating sexually-oriented businesses, reports The Advocate. "Following the vote, a deep rumbling of discontent reverberated in the council chambers as the audience made its way outside."

Posted by AJR at 07:40 AM

March 13, 2003

BR Councilman Slams State Representative Over Wal-Mart

The Advocate reports that East Baton Rouge Councilman Jim Benham accused State Representative William Daniel of "meddling in city-parish" issues regarding a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on College Drive. Daniel has proposed a tax-incremented financing district for the area to provide traffic improvements.

I'm happy that, after seven years of being in the state Legislature, Mr. Daniels has finally realized that transportation issues are very important to the city of Baton Route and to his constituents. Perhaps now, instead of lobbying state agencies for millions in state contracts for his company in order to line his own pockets, he will devote more time to getting desperately needed state funds for state roads in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Posted by AJR at 10:51 AM

March 12, 2003

One Person Can Make A Difference

The Advocate profiles Kathryn Goppelt who, more than anyone else, is responsible for Ascension Parish's new ordinance regulating sexually-oriented businesses. In exercising her democratic rights, "she has conducted research, attended seminars, lobbied politicians, buttonholed lawyers, formed an organization and spoken forcefully at public meetings." And most impressively, whether you agree with her viewpoint or not, has effected real change.

Posted by AJR at 08:44 AM

March 11, 2003

Donalsonville Mayor Seeks Dictatorship

Mayor Raymond Jacobs asked the Louisiana Attorney General in January if the Louisana Constitution allows local governments operating under a home rule charter to establish dictatorships, reports The Advocate. Not surprisingly, the Attorney General's Office issued an opinion that such a form of government would be illegal. Mayor Jacobs and the Donaldsonville Commission Council have been at odds since he took office and he is now seeking to replace the Commission Council with a council form of government.

Posted by AJR at 10:34 AM

Virginia Proceedings Delay EBR Sniper Case

The Advocate reports that legal proceedings in Virginia will postpone the arraignment of sniper suspects Lee Malvo and John Muhummad on charges of first-degree murder in East Baton Rouge Parish. First Assistant District Attorney John Sinquefield said he plans to give Virginia officials time to handle their trial against the sniper suspects, which could take six months or more.

Posted by AJR at 10:26 AM

March 10, 2003

Program Helps Released Inmates

The Advocate profiles the Baton Rouge Post Release Skills and Re-Entry Center, which "offers instruction in life skills, job readiness, employment search, GED preparedness, substance abuse treatment, case management and an intensive, structured monitoring system." Clients must be under parole supervision or probation and have children under the age of 18 to qualify for the program. "It's just finally dawned on people a few years ago that we're locking people up, but they're not going to stay there forever," Program Director Matt Moore said. "They're getting out in record levels."

Posted by AJR at 07:50 AM

March 09, 2003

Ascension Strippers Stripped

Although they got the title of the article all wrong, The Advocate reports that Ascension Parish President Harold Marchand vetoed the Parish Council's settlement with local strip clubs regarding an ordinance that was passed last year. The veto, if it holds, will revoke the council's settlement and amended ordinance and reinstate the original stricter ordinance regulating the distance between dancers and patrons.

Posted by AJR at 10:27 PM

February 28, 2003

BR Jury Awards $773,000 to ex-LSU Coach

The Advocate reports that a jury in the 19th JDC awarded a former LSU track coach $773,000 last night in lost wages and damages connected to his firing in 1989. The coach, Loren Seagrave, "contends LSU discriminated against him, and wrongfully fired him. Seagrave, who is white, claimed the firing was racially motivated because he was married to a black woman at the time of his firing."

Posted by AJR at 08:26 AM

February 26, 2003

BRToday.com Launch Postponed

The Daily Report reports that BRToday, a new web site that will combine news coverage from WBRZ and The Advocate, did not launch today because Woody Jenkins, head of Great Oaks Broadcasting, wrote a letter claiming ownership of the name Baton Rouge Today.

Attorneys for The Advocate looked into the matter and gave the site a green light. But Yarbrough [who runs The Advocate online division] said higher ups at The Advocate and WBRZ decided to change the name, just to play it safe.

UPDATE: The Advocate reports that the new name of the joint site will be 2theadvocate.com. The new motto of the site will be "On air, In print, Online - Anytime."

Posted by AJR at 08:44 PM

Ascension Parish Strippers Not Out of the Woods Yet

The Advocate reports on the Ascension Parish Council's decision to amend an ordinance governing sexually-oriented businesses to comply with a settlement agreement reached with strip clubs in the parish. Interestingly, however, it appears that Parish President Harold Marchand is considering a veto of the measure. An article that first reported the settlement is discussed here.

Posted by AJR at 08:10 AM

February 24, 2003

Edwards' Supreme Court Appeal Rejected

WBRZ reports that the United States Supreme Court has denied the appeals of both Edwin Edwards and his son, Stephen.

Also Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of businessman Bobby Johnson, who also was convicted in the riverboat scheme. Johnson was sentenced to prison and fined $50,000.

The cases are Edwards v. United States of America, 02-927, and Johnson v. United States of American 02-955.

Posted by AJR at 12:41 PM

February 21, 2003

Man Who Entered Victim's Home is Sentenced

Jeremiah Pastor, who plead guilty to unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling for entering the home of serial killer victim Charlotte Murray Pace, was sentenced today, reports The Advocate.

State Judge Lou Daniel in Baton Rouge on Friday sentenced Pastor to six months in the Ecumenical House, three years probation, 300 hours of community service work and a $1,000 fine. Daniel also sentenced Pastor to three years in prison, but suspended that sentence.

Posted by AJR at 01:15 PM

February 17, 2003

EPA Threatens to Revoke State Authority

WBRZ reports that the EPA has threatened to revoke DEQ's primacy over pollution enforcement if the agency does not agree to major changes by the end of next month.

The measures required by the EPA include:

- A commitment to dramatically reducing DEQ's backlog of water permits for major pollution sources within a year, and for minor pollution sources within two years. The state is behind in issuing renewals and new permits for 38 percent of its major permits and 49 percent of its minor permits.

- Changes in state rules to make sure companies violating water quality rules don't make money from doing so. In the past, DEQ did not always try to find out how industries profited from breaking pollution regulations. Now, fines must attempt to recoup those profits.

- Limits on letting companies substitute environmental improvement projects for the payment of fines. Environmental groups have complained that some companies were allowed to construct changes in their pollution control equipment that might be required under the law, or build wetlands restoration projects, instead of paying hefty fines.

- An agreement to complete enforcement actions by taking violators to court or completing administrative appeals within one to two years. An audit last year by former Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle charged that many cases never were taken to court, or were delayed for years.

Posted by AJR at 08:16 AM

February 14, 2003

House of Representatives Redistricting Plan Going to Trial

The News-Star reports that the United States District Court handling the case rejected a motion for summary judgment to overturn the plan. Accordingly, House leaders will get a chance to defend the plan in court, which is being challenged by several groups because it reduces the number of majority black legislative districts.

Posted by AJR at 08:28 AM

February 13, 2003

David Duke Scared of Prison?

WBRZ reports that James McPherson, an attorney representing David Duke, is concerned that his client could be attacked by black inmates or political opponents in prison. "Of course, black people as a rule are not fond of David Duke," Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report , said. "David Duke has screwed so many people in his own white supremacist movement, that he may very well be in danger from both whites and blacks."

Posted by AJR at 01:33 PM

February 12, 2003

Louisiana ORM Liabilities Almost $1Billion

The Times reports that Louisiana will have $88 million in claims in the coming fiscal year for wrecks on its highways and no money to pay them. Further, the state has had court judgments and claims against it annually the past several years and has not satisfied them.

An actuary hired to look at the Office of Risk Management, the state's self-insurance program, said, "It should be noted that ORM's financial package indicates that cash assets are approximately $20 million and that total liabilities (were) approximately $1 billion as of June 30, 2002." "If we were a private insurance company, they would have shut us down a long time ago," said J.L. "Bud" Thompson, state risk manager.

Posted by AJR at 07:33 AM

February 10, 2003

LAC Updated

The Office of the State Register has updated the following titles of the Louisiana Administrative Code:

28:XXI - Education, Bulletin 1934 - Starting Points Preschool Program
Last amended February 2002, compiled March 2002

28:XXXV - Education, Regulations and Guidelines for Implementation of the Louisiana Law for the Education of Dyslexic Students
Last amended February 2000, compiled June 2002

34 - Government Contracts, Procurement and Property Control
Last amended March 2002, compiled March 2002

40 - Labor and Employment
Last amended March 2002, compiled March 2002

42 - Louisiana Gaming
Last amended November 2002, compiled December 2002

43:XIX - Natural Resources, Office of Conservation, General Operations
Last amended November 2001, compiled December 2001

46:XI - Professional and Occupational Standards, Boxing and Wrestling
Last amended August 1996, compiled September 2002

46:XLIX - Professional and Occupational Standards, Board of Examiners of Nursing Facility Administrators
Last amended April 2000, compiled March 2002

46:LXVI - Professional and Occupational Standards, Radiologic Technologists
Last amended January 1997, compiled June 2002

46:LXXX - Professional and Occupational Standards, Substance Abuse Counselors
Last amended September 2002, compiled September 2002

46:LXXXVI - Professional and Occupational Standards, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors
Last amended March 2002, compiled June 2002

46:XCI - Professional and Occupational Standards, Wholesale Drug Distributors
Last amended April 1992, compiled September 2002

51 - Public Health, Sanitary Code
Last amended June 2002, compiled June 2002

73 - Weights, Measures and Standards
Last amended July 2002, compiled September 2002

These changes can be viewed and/or printed here.

Certified copies can be ordered from the Office of the State Register here (pdf).

Posted by AJR at 09:20 PM

DNA Testing in the News

The Advocate contains an editorial on the use of DNA evidence and its impact on the administration of criminal justice. It notes:

"Anyone who cares about justice must work to fix a system that convicts innocent people. Ignoring DNA evidence that suggests serious problems in the system won't make them go away."

And on a related note, WBRZ reports that state legislators will consider a bill this spring that would require the collection of DNA samples from every convicted felon in Louisiana (the story is unclear whether "every convicted felon" includes those that have already served their sentences).

Posted by AJR at 08:37 PM

February 07, 2003

PSC Ethics Investigation

The Times-Picayune reports on the state audit of the Public Service Commission. State auditors working on the case plan to brief the U.S. attorney's office in Baton Rouge. "Among the issues under investigation is whether power companies treated PSC members and their staffs to dinners, vacations and hunting trips, and then improperly counted the entertainment as regular business expenses."

Posted by AJR at 08:20 AM

DA's Office to Investigate Extra Pages in Baker Dispute

As indicated earlier this week, District Judge Tim Kelley has requested that the East Baton Rouge DA look into whether a crime was committed when someone added five pages to a lawsuit between the Baker Mayor and a City Judge, reports The Advocate.

Posted by AJR at 08:01 AM

Hearing Delayed to Bring in Criminal Justice Procedures Expert

The Advocate reports on District Judge Mike Erwin's decision to grant a hearing delay to allow the defense attorney for Henri Broadway, who was convicted for the ambush killing of Officer Betty Smothers, to bring in an expert on criminal justice procedures. Erwin warned that me might not let the witness testify as an expert because he doesn't consider anyone more qualified on criminal justice procedures than he is. "I don't think I've ever heard of such an expert," Erwin said of the potential witness. Before he was elected, Judge Erwin was the chief prosecutor for the East Baton Rouge Parish DA.

Posted by AJR at 07:57 AM

February 06, 2003

LEAN to Sue Polluters

THe Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), in conjunction with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, is threatening to file nine lawsuits under the Clean Water Act self-help provisions against municipalities and industries "consistently violating the law" , reports The Advocate.

"LEAN and the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic sent the letters to Evans Industries Inc. in Harvey; Pioneer Americas Inc. in St. Gabriel; Honeywell International Inc. in Baton Rouge; the town of Lutcher; CII Carbon LLC in Chalmette; T.T. Coatings Inc. in Harahan; Daybrook Fisheries Inc. in Empire; Weber Marine Inc. of Convent; and the Addis Wastewater Treatment Plant in Addis."

Posted by AJR at 07:35 AM

Declaration of Independence in Baton Rouge

One of twenty-five remaining "copies" of the Declaration of Independence is on display at the Old State Capitol until Friday, reports The Times. The document is part of the Louisiana Purchase documents display, which will continue until June.

The Advocate also reports and provides a little history on how this particular copy was found: "A man paid $4 for a painting at a flea market because he liked the frame. The document was found folded between the canvas and the frame."

Posted by AJR at 07:23 AM

February 05, 2003

Baker Mayor Loses Suit, Receives Rebuke

The Advocate reports the end of the dispute between Baker City Judge Mark Plaisance and Mayor Leroy Davis. In a judgment issued Tuesday, Judge Tim Kelley "delivered a stinging rebuke and civics lesson" to Mayor Davis ordering him to pay Judge Plaisance according to the salary set by the City Council. Mayor Davis had ordered the City Judge's pay held until he submitted to a required drug test.

On a related note, Judge Kelley has requested a criminal investigation to determine how five pages were added to the official record without following official procedures.

Posted by AJR at 08:14 AM

Strippers Rejoice in Ascension Parish

The Ascension Parish Council agreed to liberalize the sexually-oriented business ordinance it approved last year, reports The Advocate. In a two-hour executive session, the council agreed to reduce the distance between dancers and patrons from six to three feet, contingent upon dismissal of lawsuits that had been filed in federal court by several strip clubs in the parish.

Posted by AJR at 08:05 AM

February 04, 2003

Decedent's Family Sues Over Head Removal

The Advocate reports on a lawsuit filed by the family of a homicide victim against the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office. The lawsuit indicates that Mr. Edwin Robillard's, whose burned body was found atop a Baton Rouge school in January 2000, skull is at the LSU FACES lab. The director of the laboratory and District Attorney Doug Moreau contend the skull has been kept for evidentiary purposes.

Posted by AJR at 07:23 AM

Foster to Seek Limited Vouchers

Governor Foster is planning to present a limited voucher system to the state Legislature this spring, reports The Times. "The 'very limited' voucher program would apply only to those schools judged failing under the state's educational accountability program and could be used only at private and parochial schools that would conform to the state program."

The Times-Picayune reports that the proposed program would fall squarely on the New Orleans school system.

Posted by AJR at 06:51 AM

January 29, 2003

Baker City Judge Sues Mayor

Baker City Judge Mark Plaisance has filed suit against Mayor Leroy Davis and members of his staff to force them to release his paycheck, according to The Advocate. Apparently, Davis has instructed the city treasurer to withold Plaisance's pay until he submits to a drug test.

"Plaisance argues in the lawsuit that under state law, elected officials are not required to submit to drug-testing, and Davis has no authority to withhold his paycheck."

Posted by AJR at 07:58 AM

January 28, 2003

Terrorism on the Mississippi

Channel 2 reports on proposed laws that will require potential marine terrorist targets to file security plans with the government.

Posted by AJR at 01:47 PM

January 27, 2003

Two Cases from LA Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal

The two following cases from the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal were published by the LSBA today:

Orion Refining v. Shaw Group - The dispute in this case concerned a contract in which Shaw was hired to provide administrative and construction services as part of a $900,000,000 capital improvement project for an oil refinery, owned by Orion, in Norco, Louisiana.

State v. Terry Smith - Defendant appealled conviction of sexual battery and aggravated crime against nature. He was a 33-year old police officer who impregnated a 12-year old girl. The sentence was affirmed.

Posted by AJR at 09:33 PM
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