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All Things Legal in Louisiana


March 30, 2005

Lake Charles Judge Reaches Agreement with EPA

The American Press reports that 14th Judicial District Judge Wilford Carter has reached an agreement in principle concerning alleged wetland violations. Judge Carter filled approximately 2.6 acres of land while developing a residential subdivision. The agreement calls for the payment of a $15,000 fine.

The American Press filed freedom of information requests and received multiple emails concerning the matter, including the following from an EPA employee in Dallas commenting on the penalty negotiations:

"Let's not put the judge out any further, poor wretch, and drop the case ... how low of penalty does he want for an incentive to settle??? Couple of discount coupons for future destruction of wetlands???" she wrote.

"I didn't realize EPA was a discount clearing house, if you're gonna do the crime you gotta pay the fine, he should be familiar with that line being a judge. And just what is this extraordinary evidence his good attorney refers???"

Posted by AJR at 01:55 PM

March 15, 2005

Calcasieu Public Defender Charged with Fraud

A Lake Charles attorney was charged with 7 counts of fraud and identity theft. The Lake Charles American Press reports that the attorney was investigated by the Attorney General after receiving complaints of identity theft from several of her clients. Attorney General Charles Foti said special agents found that Van Dyke "had been obtaining credit cards using clients' names and identities," including that of one man who had died.

Posted by Capital Clerks at 09:59 AM

February 16, 2005

Judge Recuses Himself from Capital Cases

The American Press reports that 14th Judicial District Judge Al Gray has recused himself from all capital cases after the Third Circuit granted a defendant a new trial based on claims that the judge's behavior during a 2003 capital murder trial deprived the defendant of his right to a fair trial.

Judge Gray opposes the death penalty, and he hasn't kept his feelings a secret. During Langley's 2003 trial, he practically praised prospective jurors who shared his view.
Posted by AJR at 07:42 AM

July 09, 2004

Judge Developed in Wetlands?

KPLC-Lake Charles reports that 14th JDC District Judge Wilford Carter has submitted an "after the fact" wetlands permit application for a subdivision he developed in 2002. Landowners in the subdivision are in limbo after the US Army Corps of Engineers issued cease and desist orders to stop construction in the alleged wetlands. The article notes that Judge Carter has refused to refund any money because he is convinced that he has not violated the law.

Posted by AJR at 08:28 AM

June 18, 2004

American Press Moves to Subscription Model

The American Press has apparently moved to an e-subscription model. Who knew the demand for Lake Charles news was so high on the Internet?

Posted by AJR at 07:22 AM

October 15, 2003

Judges Fail to Attend Community Meeting

The American Press reports that neighborhood watch groups in Lake Charles are upset that judges from the 14th JDC failed to attend a meeting that was called to address the problem of reduced bail bonds.

Chief District Judge David Painter said the invitation from the group was discussed among the judges. Judge Wilford Carter agreed to attend the meeting, he said. "He just didn't go," Painter said.

The meeting was called to address the rising number of criminal suspects who have been re-arrested after posting reduced bonds.

Posted by AJR at 09:05 AM

October 14, 2003

Judge Recommended for Suspension

The Advocate reports that the Louisiana Judiciary Commission has found that 33rd JDC Judge Joel Davis violated state law and judicial ethics by appointing his father as a public defender in cases heard in his own court. The commission has recommended to the Louisiana Supreme Court that Judge Davis be suspended for 180 days without pay and required to pay the $1,532 in court costs associated with the three-year investigation of his misconduct.

The American Press provides a more detailed analysis of the situation.

Posted by AJR at 11:05 PM

July 29, 2003

14th JDC Begins Video Arraignments

The American Press reports that the 14th JDC and the Calcasieu Correctional Center have started to conduct video arraignments using computer technology. The program was implemented in April 1998, but suffered setbacks because of inadequate bandwidth. Hopefully the recent installation of a T-1 line will prevent future problems.

Posted by AJR at 08:45 AM

July 25, 2003

Calcasieu Parish Clerk of Court Candidates Present Platforms

The American Press reports that candidates for Calcasieu Parish Clerk of Court presented their platforms and plans during a forum Thursday, sponsored by the Family Law Section of the Southwest Louisiana Bar Association.

Posted by AJR at 08:51 AM

July 22, 2003

Public Defenders Burdened with Heavy Work, Little Money

The American Press reports on a study of the Calcasieu Parish jusicial system that will be released by the American Bar Association today. The report indicates that public defenders have difficulty providing adequate representation because of heavy caseloads and inadequate funding.

"The report confirms what many of us have known for a long time: indigent criminal defendants do not receive a fair defense," said Tom Lorenzi, president-elect of the Southwest Louisiana Bar Association. "When it takes an average of almost a year and a half for a case to come to trial, the system is clearly broken."

Posted by AJR at 08:36 AM

June 03, 2003

A Look at Lake Charles Dock Board Legal Bills

The American Press continues requesting and reporting on the Lake Charles Dock Board's legal fees.

The billing reveals that the former Dock Board's outside legal counsel used 12 attorneys from its firm to cover a wide range of issues with the previous port commissioners, including an FBI investigation, the audit, Citgo and Conoco billings and Port Attorney Mike Dees' contract.

Posted by AJR at 07:51 AM

May 27, 2003

Lake Charles Port to Remove Counsel?

The American Press reports that the Laked Charles Dock Board "is making a move today to remove port attorney Mike Dees." Interestingly, today's meeting will likely be the last time the present board meets because Governor Foster is expected to sign a law that dissolves the board this week.

Posted by AJR at 06:39 AM

May 23, 2003

Langley Trial Juror Responds

The American Press provides insight into the Ricky Langley jury deliberations via an email sent in by a juror. Her response is compelling and confirms repeated observations made by attorneys and jury consultants at the ABA Litigation Annual Meeting in Houston - jurors take their jobs seriously.

Posted by AJR at 07:29 AM

May 22, 2003

Pardoned Sex Offender Still Must Register

The American Press reports on a decision of the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal that requires a pardoned first-felony offender to comply with the state's sex offender registration laws. The decision overturns a judgment made by now retired District Judge Fred Godwin.

The 3rd Circuit also said only a governor's pardon, and not an automatic first-offender pardon, would prohibit a sex offender from complying with the registration laws.

Posted by AJR at 07:31 AM

May 20, 2003

Calcasieu DA Disappointed in Verdict

The American Press reports on Calcasieu District Attorney Ricky Bryant's reaction to the second-degree murder conviction of Ricky Langley last week. The retrial, which was held in New Orleans, resulted in a sentence of life imprisonment. "There can't be a more appropriate case for the death penalty than this one and that's my problem," Bryant said at a news conference.

He added that if Langley doesn't deserve to die "then we don't need the death penalty because absolutely he is one of the most evil people that has ever stalked anyone in this community or any other community."

Bryant said it's very difficult for prosecutors when the trial judge "says he is opposed to capital punishment" along with the defense attorney and the mother of the murder victim.

Posted by AJR at 07:36 AM

May 19, 2003

Minaldi Confirmed as Western District Judge

The Advocate reported on Saturday that State District Judge Patricia Minaldi was confirmed by the United States Senate to a federal district judge's post in the Western District. Judge Minaldi will replace Judge James Trimble, Jr. who has taken senior status. Judge Minaldi will take the federal bench on June 16.

Posted by AJR at 07:35 AM

May 15, 2003

LCA Outlines Legislative Initiatives

The American Press reports that the president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, Dan Borne, outlined several of the group's legislative initiatives at a meeting of the Lake Charles Air and Waste Management Association. Initiatives include limiting liability when products are spilled by other parties (typically in transit), seeking a prohibition on posting some chemical industry documents on the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality web site, audit frequencies, and giving more enforcement authority to regional offices.

Posted by AJR at 07:29 AM

March 31, 2003

Dock Board Law Fees Examined

The American Press reports on the Lake Charles Dock Board's receipt of a bill from Baton Rouge-based firm Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips*. "The American Press asked in public records requests earlier this month for all billings from the Baton Rouge law firm and a copy of the firm's contract with the Dock Board."

Posted by AJR at 08:03 AM

March 26, 2003

14th JDC Judge Expects Sheriff to Provide Courthouse Security

The American Press reports that Chief Judge David Painter, of the 14th JDC, said Tuesday that he has told Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Beth Lundy that all of the 14th JDC judges feel that the sheriff is required to provide security at the parish courthouse. The opinion is in response to indications from the sheriff's office that it might need to reduce the number of security officers because of budget restraints.

Posted by AJR at 08:12 AM

March 24, 2003

Lake Charles Longshoremen Drink on the Job

The American Press reports that the Lake Charles Dock Board, which has been under intense scrutiny of late, permits longshoremen to drink at the dock since their union has released the port of any liability that might result from the drinking. Lake Charles port employees are not permitted to drink. According to the article, both the Dock Board and the longshoremen take full advantage of their abilities to drink at the dock.

In other news, the port also removed a port-a-potty. Seriously.

Posted by AJR at 08:01 AM

March 19, 2003

Port Bills

The Port of Lake Charles has been under intense scrutiny in the last month after a former dock member resigned on February 10 alleging fiscal mismanagement at the port. The American Press has been on the case and today offers several stories regarding the board and its spending habits. This article provides a brief background on the commissioners. The next few articles cover the boards' spending habits:

- Officials Run Up Big Bills
- Port officials throw $38,000 party
- Port officials' eats add up: $50,000 paid over 3 years

Posted by AJR at 07:11 AM

March 13, 2003

Jennings Firefighters, Police Charged with Malfeasance in Office

The Advertiser reports reports that five men accused of taking computers and televisions from a wrecked tractor-trailer while they were working as Jennings firefighters or police officers have been charged with malfeasance in office, prosecutors announced Wednesday. Fifteen individuals were intially accused, but Jefferson Davis DA Michael Cassidy said that a police investigation shoed that not all of the men's actions rose to a criminal level. The men, four of whom have resigned or been fired, will be eligible for a pre-trial intervention program.

Posted by AJR at 11:18 AM

March 11, 2003

DeQuincy City Council Punts on Hazardous Waste Ordinance

The American Press reports that the DeQuincy City Council decided yesterday to let its residents decide the fate of a proposed hazardous-waste ordinance. The citizen-proposed ordinance "would require a recommendation from the city zoning board and approval from city voters before any business requiring a hazardous-waste permit would be allowed to operate in DeQuincy." Eston Singletary, the attorney representing the group seeking to pass the ordinance, recommended the City disapprove the ordinance because it is invalid as written and will likely be thrown out if challenged in court. He points out that courts have repeatedly found that local governments are prohibited from regulating hazardous materials.

Posted by AJR at 10:47 AM

March 05, 2003

Lake Charles Dock Board Hires Outside Counsel

The American Press reports that the Lake Charles Dock Board has hired outside counsel after its in-house counsel told board members that he represents the dock and the board as an entity - not individual commissioners. In-house counsel Mike Dees angered board members last month with his legal opinion that the port violated federal law by reporting $2 million in non-existent revenues to its letter of credit bank in New York City. Outside counsel, Taylor, Porter, Brooks, and Phillips, will review the opinion and represent the board in forthcoming audits/investigations.

Posted by AJR at 07:58 AM

February 20, 2003

Langley Requests Waiver of Jury Trial on First-Degree Murder Charges

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments to consider Ricky Langley's request to waive his right to a trial by jury in his upcoming re-trial on a first-degree murder charge reports the American Press. Prosecutors are scratching their heads over the Appeal Court's decision since Article 782 of the Louisiana Criminal Code says: "Trial by jury may be knowingly and intelligently waived by the defendant except in captial cases."

Posted by AJR at 10:53 AM

February 19, 2003

Jefferson Davis DA Considers Theft Charges Against Police and Firefighters

The American Press reports that Jefferson Parish DA Michael Cassidy will decide this week on whether or not to charge about 15 Jennings firefighters and police officers accused of either taking or having knowledge of items being taken from an overturned 18-wheeler last August.

"I realize the actions were a stupid mistake and even good people commit stupid mistakes," Cassidy said. "I must also consider the fact that a lot of thefts and burglaries require forethought and planning, but the fact remains that property was taken without permission by persons in a position of trust. So I feel this office has to do something."

Posted by AJR at 08:30 AM

February 18, 2003

Parents Sue Correction Officials Over Daughter's Death

The American Press reports on a lawsuit filed against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Acadia Parish Sheriff for failing to process a hold on alleged killer Jason Reeves when he was released from the David Wade Correctional Center. Reeves had an outstanding warrant in Acadia Parish for molestation of a juvenile charges in 1995, but was released from the David Wade Correctional Center after completing a prison sentence for an earlier conviction. Upon his release, Reeves kidnapped, raped and murdered four-year old Mary Jean Thigpen.

[The failure to execute the hold], the suit contends, was the "proximate and legal cause" of Reeves' being able to kidnap, rape and murder the Thigpen girl.

The Thigpens are suing for $50,000 in damages.

Posted by AJR at 01:42 PM
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