Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

“Loyalty to Joe Aguillard apparently would include a requirement to ignore unlawful and unethical behavior…”

“The reports by Timothy Johnson to Louisiana College obviously had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with personal and institutional integrity and honesty.”

—Statements by Tim Johnson in his Mar. 11 lawsuit against Louisiana College and college President Joe Aguillard. Tim Johnson, son-in-law of Rev. Mack Ford, is said to have removed a girl from the New Bethany Home for Girls after she recorded Ford’s sexual assault of her more than 30 years ago. Johnson, whose son served for a decade as State Director for former Congressman Rodney Alexander, was appointed Wednesday to a $55,000-a-year job with the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs which Alexander heads.

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Apparently lost in all the jibber jabber about Vance in his pants McAllister and the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation he and aide Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock recently administered to each other is why on earth Monroe’s Christian Life Church pastor Danny Chance inserted himself into this steamy little affair—without, we might add, having been invited to the party.

Chance, in case you’ve been on vacation in the Ukraine, took it upon himself to reveal to the world (at least that part of the world that really gives a hoot in hell) that it was McAllister’s Monroe District Office manager Leah Gordon who leaked the video of McAllister and Peacock engaged in lascivious lip locking.

Chance apparently violated a ministerial duty of confidentiality when he shared with us a purported statement by Gordon that she was taking the video to State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) and Jonathan Johnson, former aide to retired Congressman Rodney Alexander and who worked in the campaign of McAllister’s opponent, State Sen. Neil Riser. Both men, by the way, have denied any involvement in receiving or circulating the video.

“I just feel like there is a conspiracy to bring Vance down and destroy him,” the good reverend said. “For someone on his staff to do that is wrong.”

And speaking of wrong, how about a minister violating an apparent confidence by going public with something like a confession, as it were, that an individual (Gordon) planned to forward the video to political operatives? Is that not equally egregious?

Someone recently, perhaps only half joking, suggested that Heath Peacock, erstwhile best friend of Congressman Vance McAllister and husband of McAllister’s paramour/legislative aide, might want to consider running against his former friend this fall for the Fifth District congressional seat.

That would be fun to watch, but we don’t feel it goes quite far enough. We have an idea to extend it to its logical conclusion.

How about if McAllister resigns his congressional seat (there is already pressure from that moral standard bearer, the Republican Party, that he do so), thus opening the door for Peacock’s congressional candidacy? McAllister, naturally would then run for governor next year against…..David Vitter.

Now that would be a match made in hell and could conceivably even launch a new reality show: Duck Dynasty Dilemma.

There would be no debates between the candidates, of course: only the congenial sharing of notes and frat boy exchanges of stories of romantic conquests.

To keep viewers’ interest alive during lulls in the dialogue, lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas) could promote three-round chicken boxing matches. That would allow bookies to handicap both the governor’s race and sporting events simultaneously.

But the scenario gets better—or worse, depending upon your tastes—and considerably more muddled. To keep up, you may need a pen and paper and perhaps even an abacus and a few highlighters for purposes of color coding. A chart of some type might also help.

Obviously we couldn’t allow Heath Peacock to waltz into Congress unopposed as representative of the good people of Louisiana’s 5th District. He must earn his stripes. For that reason, we have tapped the Hon. Chet Traylor of Monroe as his most worthy opponent.

Remember Chet Traylor?

Way back in 1996, Trayor, then living in Winnsboro, defeated incumbent Ruston’s Joe Bleich to win a 10-year term on the Louisiana Supreme Court. While serving on the state’s high court, he would have occasion in 2000 to write the majority opinion upholding the constitutionality Louisiana’s anti-sodomy laws, thus validating a morals code for everyone to follow.

Traylor, following a divorce from his first wife, married Peggy Marie McDowell Ellington, who was previously married to Noble Ellington, II, of Winnsboro, then a state representative but since retired and subsequently appointed as second in command of the State Insurance Department at a six-figure salary.

The Ellingtons had two sons, Noble Ellington, III, and Ryan Ellington, both of Winnsboro.

The senior Ellington has been quoted as saying that Traylor was “significantly involved” in his divorce.

We may never know the details of the history between Traylor and Peggy Ellington because not long after her marriage to Traylor, she died.

Soon after her death, Traylor, the good Methodist that he is, began yet another relationship—this one with Denise Lively, estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington.

Now that’s a family man to the core.

And bringing this entire saga full-circle, we have Traylor receiving less than 10 percent of the votes in his 2010 U.S. Senate election campaign against….David Vitter.

All of which goes to prove two points:

  • Politics, especially in Louisiana, does make for strange bedfellows, and
  • If you followed all this, you have far too much time on your hands.

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Here’s the political shocker of the year: Gov. Bobby Jindal says that the Republican Party would be better off selecting a governor as its 2016 presidential nominee.

Wow. Who saw that coming?

Jindal might wish to ask former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney how that scenario worked out for him.

Wonder how Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida feel about that little snub?

Better yet, wonder who he had in mind? Gosh, there are so many: Chris Christie of New Jersey, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Rick Perry of Texas whom Jindal was quick to endorse a couple of years ago before Perry’s political machine sputtered and died on some lonely back road. Then there are those former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of neighboring Arkansas, and Sarah what’s-her-name up there in Alaska.

Oh, right. We almost forgot because well…he’s just so forgettable, but there’s also Jindal who recently placed about 12th in a 10-person straw poll at that wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

But he’s running. You betcha (sorry, Palin, we couldn’t resist). He is so intent in his as yet unannounced candidacy that he has already drafted his own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Presidential candidates are usually expected to exhibit voter empathy and to be spellbinding orators who are capable of mesmerizing of voters en masse. John Kennedy comes immediately to mind. So do Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. I mean, after Clinton took two steps toward that audience member in his debate against President Bush the First in 1992 and said, “I feel your pain,” Bush never had a chance. Clinton looked that voter dead in the eye and spoke one-on-one as Bush was checking his watch.

Jindal has all the empathy of Don Rickles, but without the charisma.

As for oratory skills, to borrow a line from a recent Dilbert comic strip, he should be called the plant killer: when he speaks, every plant in the room dies from sheer boredom.

So much for his strong points: let’s discuss his shortcomings.

Jindal believes—is convinced—he is presidential timber. The truth is he has been a dismal failure at running a state for the past six years and he’s already written off the final two as he ramps up his campaign for POTUS.

Yes, we’ve been beset by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav. Yes, we had the BP spill. All of those provided Jindal valuable face time on national TV and still he trails the pack and when you’re not the lead dog in the race, the view never changes.

Because of those catastrophes, the state has been the recipient of billions of federal dollars for recovery. Nine years later, Jindal cronies still hold multi-million contracts (funded by FEMA) to oversee “recovery” that is painfully slow. The state received hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild schools in New Orleans. Construction on many of those schools has yet to commence. The money is there but there are no schools. (Correction: Largely white Catholic schools have received state funding and those facilities are up and running.)

Jindal tried to restructure the state’s retirement system—and failed. Yes, the retirement systems have huge unfunded liabilities but Jindal’s solution was to pull the rug from under hard-working civil servants (who by and large, do make less than their counterparts in the private sector: you can look it up, in the words of Casey Stengel). As an example, one person whom we know was planning to retire after 30 years. At her present salary, if she never gets another raise over the final eight years she plans to work, her retirement would be $39,000 per year.

Under Jindal’s proposed plan, if she retired after 30 years, her retirement would have been $6,000—a $33,000-a-year hit. And state employees do not receive social security.

Never mind that state employees have what in essence is a contract: he was going to ram it down their throats anyway—until the courts told him he was going to do no such thing.

He has gutted higher education and his support of the repeal of the Stelly Plan immediately after taking office has cost the state a minimum of $300 million a year—$1.8 billion during his first six years in office.

He even vetoed a renewal of a 5-cent per pack cigarette tax because he opposed any new taxes (try following that logic). The legislature, after failing to override his veto, was forced to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent. Voters easily approved the amendment.

Then there was the matter of the Minimum Foundation Program, the funding formula for public schools. Funds were going to be taken from the MFP to fund school vouchers until the courts said uh-uh, you ain’t doing that either.

Jindal’s puppets, the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, fired the school’s president and two outstanding and widely admired doctors—all because they didn’t jump on board Jindal’s and the board’s LSU hospital privatization plan. Then the stuporvisors voted to turn two LSU medical facilities in Shreveport and Monroe over to a foundation run by a member of the stuporvisors—and the member cast a vote on the decision. No conflict of interest there.

Six months after the transition, the Center for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) has yet to approve the transition and if it ultimately does not approve it, there will be gnashing of hands and wringing of teeth in Baton Rouge (That’s right: the administration won’t be able to do that correctly, either) because of the millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding that the state will not get or will have to repay. Jindal will, of course, label such decision as “wrong-headed,” which is an intellectual term he learned as a Rhodes Scholar.

And from what we hear, his little experiment at privatizing Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SELH) in Mandeville by bringing in Magellan to run the facility isn’t fairing too well, either.

By the way, has anyone seen Jindal at even one of those north Louisiana Protestant churches since his re-election? Didn’t think so.

For some reason, the word repulsive keeps coming to mind as this is being written.

Jindal’s firings and demotions are too many to rehash here but if you want to refresh your memory, go to this link: http://louisianavoice.com/category/teague/

The LSU Board of Stuporvisors, by the way, even attempted to prevent a release of a list of potential candidates for the LSU presidency. One might expect that member Rolf McCollister, a publisher (Baton Rouge Business Report), would stand up for freedom of the press, for freedom of information and for transparency. One would be wrong. He joined the rest of the board to unanimously try to block release. Again, led as usual by legal counsel Jimmy Faircloth who has been paid more than $1 million to defend these dogs (dogs being the name given to terrible, indefensible legal cases), Jindal was shot down in flames by the courts and the Board of Stuporvisors is currently on the hook for some $50,000 in legally mandated penalties for failing to comply with the state’s public records laws.

It would be bad enough if the administration’s legal woes were limited to the cases already mentioned. But there is another that while less costly, is far more embarrassing to Jindal if indeed, he is even capable of embarrassment at this point (which he probably is not because it’s so hard to be humble when you’re right all the time).

In a story we broke more than a year ago, former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control commissioner Murphy Painter refused to knuckle under to Tom Benson and Jindal when Benson’s application for a liquor license for Champions Square was incomplete both times it was submitted. Budweiser even offered an enticement for gaining approval of a large tent and signage it wanted to erect in Champions Square for Saints tailgate parties: a $300,000 “contribution” to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome), whose board is heavily stacked with Jindal campaign contributors.




Jindal fired Painter. Because firing him for doing his job might be bad press, more solid grounds were sought and Painter was subsequently arrested for sexual harassment of a female employee and of using a state computer database to look up personal information on people not tied to any criminal investigation (something his successor Troy Hebert ordered done on LouisianaVoice Publisher Tom Aswell).

The female employee recanted but Painter nevertheless was put on trial and once more the Jindalites were embarrassed when Painter was acquitted on all 29 counts. Unanimously.

But wait. When a public official is tried—and acquitted—for offenses allegedly committed during the scope of his duties (the Latin phrase is “in copum official actuum”) then Louisiana law permits that official to be reimbursed for legal expenses.

In this case, Jindal’s attempt to throw a state official under the bus for the benefit of a major campaign donor (Benson and various family members), will wind up costing the state $474,000 for Painter’s legal fees and expenses, plus any outstanding bills for which he has yet to be invoiced.

So, after all is said and done, Jindal still believes he is qualified for the highest office in the land. He is convinced he should be elevated to the most powerful position in the world. If he has his way, it won’t be an inauguration; it’ll be a coronation.

So intoxicated by the very thought of occupying the White House is he that he has presumed to author a 26-page white paper that not only critiques Obamacare but apparently details his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Could that qualify as another exorcism on his part?

His epiphany, however, appears to be more akin to the Goldfinch that regurgitates food for its young nestlings than anything really new; it’s just a rehash of old ideas, it turns out.

During his entire administration—and even when he served as Gov. Mike Foster’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals—he devoted every waking moment to cutting Medicaid and depriving Louisiana’s poor citizens of health care. Even as head of DHH, according to campaign ads aired on the eve of the 2003 gubernatorial election, he made a decision which proved fatal to a Medicaid patient. That one campaign ad was aired so close to the election date that he was unable to respond and it no doubt contributed to his losing the election to then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco but he won four years later.

Nevertheless, his sudden interest in national health care prompts the obvious question: where the hell has he been for six years?

Not that we would for a moment believe that his newfound concern for healthcare is for political expedience but he apparently isn’t stopping there as he sets out to save the nation.

“This (health care plan) is the first in a series of policies I will offer through America Next (his newly established web page he expects to catapult him into the White House) over the course of this year,” he said.

We can hardly wait.


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An interesting civil trial is transpiring at the 19th Judicial District Court. Though estimates vary, if the plaintiffs prevail, about one taxpayer in five in the Greater Baton Rouge area may eventually wind up with a surprise check in the mail.

The trial involves a group of taxpayers, now represented as a class, who have sued the Amite River Basin Commission (ARBC) over what they claim are vastly overpaid property taxes covering construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal. The project was originally envisioned after the massive 1983 flood which resulted in significant backwater flooding long after rains had stopped. The concept behind the project involves providing a sort of relief valve (the Canal) to divert water from the Comite River into the Mississippi River. By lowering the water level of the Comite River, water levels would also be lowered in the Amite River basin in flood-prone areas such as Port Vincent and French Settlement.

What is in dispute is the amount of funding for which the ARBC (through local property owners) is responsible. The original estimate of the project’s construction costs was approximately $120 million (the current estimate is $199 million). Of that $120 million, the Army Corps of Engineers (through the Federal government) was to be responsible for 70% of the construction costs, or $84 million. The remaining $36 million cost was originally designated to be $30 million to the State of Louisiana, and $6 million to the ARBC.

A sidebar to the whole affair is how a Baton Rouge lawyer is legally or ethically able to represent ARBC when he also served as the plaintiff attorney in litigation against the state that could ultimately cost the state from $60 million to $70 million.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have indicated that $6 million was the full extent of the construction costs for which the ARBC was responsible. To date, by way of a 3-mill property tax approved by voters in the District in 2000, combined with a renewal (at 2.65 mills) of that tax in 2010, plaintiff attorneys say about $24.5 million has been collected to date. The suit seeks a refund of the alleged $18.5 million overpayment.

At various stages in the trial, plaintiff attorneys have accused ARBC Executive Director Deitmar Rietschier of financial mismanagement and voter deception in order to “keep a project alive that is on life support.”

The attorneys have argued that Rietschier has an ulterior motive for over-collecting on the tax in order to fund his own $93,000+ annual salary along with his executive secretary’s $38,000 salary.  The board’s executive secretary, Toni Guitrau, also happens to be the Mayor of the Livingston Parish Village of French Settlement.

So, basically, the trial boils down to the claim that taxpayers of the district have been tricked into paying around $1.1 million in salaries for Rietschier and Guitrau during a period for which no funding has been appropriated for the project’s continued construction.

Plaintiff attorney Steve Irving argued that it is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the final cost of the project or if, it may even be completed.

Defense attorney Larry Bankston says there never was any intent to cap the ARBC’s contribution to construction costs at $6 million. He argues that the Canal project remains viable and is fully ongoing. He indicated that he has eight more witnesses to call.

Bankston’s roles as both plaintiff and defense attorney in cases involving the state would appear to pose a conflict of interests. Currently, he is:

  • Legal counsel to the State Auctioneer Licensing Board under a $25,000 contract;
  • Defense attorney for ARBC in its ongoing litigation over the overpayment of taxes to that board;
  • Plaintiff attorney in ongoing litigation against the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, and the state’s Rice Promotion Board and Rice Research Board over claims of excessive assessments against the state’s rice farmers.

Employing the doctrine that “the state is the state is the state,” it would appear that Bankston may have a conflict of interests under the code of ethics which governs attorney representation.

But as we discovered years ago, nothing is ever cut and dried in the legal world. And it’s obvious those in charge of attorney ethics or either ignorant of the subject or protective of their peers—or both.

And so it is with this question. We contacted a number of organizations, including the Attorney Disciplinary Board, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, and the State Bar Ethics Council and each one punted. Eric K. Barefield of the State Bar Association’s Ethics Council did finally respond to our email question about the propriety of working both sides of Litigation Street but his answer did little to shed light on the issue:

“Thank you for your inquiry. The Louisiana State Bar Association’s Ethics Advisory Service is designed to provide eligible Louisiana-licensed lawyers with informal, non-binding advice regarding their own prospective conduct and/or ethical dilemmas under the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct (the “LRPC”).  According to limitations set by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, we are not permitted to evaluate contemplated disciplinary complaints, to serve as the catalyst for potential complaints or even to comment on the conduct of lawyers other than that of the requesting lawyer. 

“As such, regrettably, we are not permitted to help you evaluate whether the lawyer in your scenario has or may be violating the LRPC nor are we permitted to give you legal advice on matters such as those contained in your e-mail. 

“In addition to the foregoing, if you are concerned about protecting and/or asserting your rights and interests in this matter, perhaps you should strongly consider consulting another lawyer as soon as possible with regard to getting an evaluation of your facts and a legal opinion about your rights, interests and options.  Regrettably, no one on the staff at the LSBA is permitted to offer legal assistance and/or legal advice.”

That rendition of the Bureaucratic Shuffle would easily get a “10″ rating on Dancing with the Stars.

Bankston, you may remember, is a former staff attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, was assistant parish attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish and a member of the Baton Rouge City-Parish Commission before his 1987 election to the Louisiana State Senate.

In 1994, while serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bankston met in his law office with Fred Goodson, owner of a Slidell video poker truck stop. The FBI later said Bankston and Goodson discussed a plan to manipulate the legislative process in order to protect the interests of video poker companies in exchange for providing key legislators secret financial interests in video poker truck stops.

Bankston was subsequently indicted and convicted on two racketeering counts, one of which was a scheme whereby Goodson would pay Bankston “rent” of $1,555 per month for “non-use” of Bankston’s beachfront condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama—a bribe, according to prosecutors.

Bankston was sentenced to 41 months in prison in 1997 and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

Released on Nov. 6, 2000, Bankston was subsequently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Mar. 9, 2002, retroactive to Nov. 19, 1997, but was re-admitted to practice law on Feb. 5, 2004.

So, now he represents two state boards and is suing two others and a state agency.

And there apparently is no one who can—or will—call a foul in this game.


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“The record is replete with instances in which Mr. Begue acted as prosecutor throughout the proceedings, and at times, simultaneously acted as prosecutor, panel member and independent counsel—even ruling on his own objection.”

—Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal unanimous decision on Sept. 26, 2012, to reverse the the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry’s 2010 revocation of the license of Shreveport dentist Dr. C. Ryan Haygood.

“Based upon our review of the record, we find that Mr. Begue’s functions of general counsel, independent counsel, prosecutor and fact-finder were so interwoven that they became indistinguishable, which created the appearance of impropriety and deprived the proceedings of the imperative and fundamental appearance of fairness. Therefore, the board’s decision to revoke Dr. Haygood’s license must be reversed.”

—Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, in that same decision.

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When we wrote on March 7 that the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (LSBD) functions simultaneously as adjudicator, prosecutor, judge and jury in disciplinary hearings against dental professionals, we were not embellishing or fudging the facts. Quite the contrary; we were being quite literal.

Take the behavior of LSBD legal counsel Brian Begue, for example, in the 2010 hearing on charges brought against former Shreveport dentist C. Ryan Haygood, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a degree in molecular biology and the LSU School of Dentistry.

Since 1995, Begue, rather than serve as a staff attorney at a set salary, has received eight separate contracts from the board totaling an eye-popping $2.825 million, including $450,000 for each of the last five three-year contracts.

(And State Sen. Robert Adley, Gov. Bobby Jindal and others are carping about the attorney general hiring a private law firm to pursue that lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East? But that’s another story.)

Begue’s role in his capacity as board legal counsel, according to a Sept. 26, 2012, ruling by the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans, is restricted to that of an advisor “who is independent of complaint counsel and who has not participated in the investigation or prosecution of the case.” (Emphasis added.)

The appeal court, in its ruling, noted that Begue “participated in the hearing before the board’s panel both as prosecutor and adjudicator” during Haygood’s hearing before the board. An adjudicator is one who presides, judges and arbitrates during a formal dispute and as such, may rule on evidentiary objections and other procedural questions if so delegated to do so by the board chairman.

Moreover, the court said, the LSBD “condoned Mr. Begue’s behavior and failed to acknowledge Dr. Haygood’s objection that Mr. Begue was overstepping his role in the proceedings.”

The appeal court went even further to say that the board’s hearing record was “replete with instances in which Mr. Begue acted as prosecutor throughout the proceedings, and at times simultaneously acted as prosecutor, panel member and independent counsel,” and noted that in a separate 1997 case, the Louisiana Supreme Court said that the “commingling of prosecutorial and adjudicative functions violates both the letter of the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act and the due process goals it is designed to further.” The idea of the same person serving as judge and prosecutor “is anathema under our notions of due process. Such a scenario is devoid of the appearance of fairness,” The appeal court said.

To fully appreciate the extent of Begue’s—and by its complicity, the board’s—willingness to disregard any semblance of fairness or due process, consider this gem: the court observed that Begue’s brazen behavior went so far as “even ruling on his own objection.” (emphasis added.)

The absurdity of such actions brings to mind the episode of the old Danny Thomas CBS series Make Room for Daddy in which he launched The Andy Griffith Show. In that episode, Thomas, in the role of Danny Williams, is pulled over for speeding by Griffith in the role of Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor. At the courthouse, it turns out that Andy is also the judge and when he imposes a fine, Danny demands to speak to the mayor. “All right,” drawls Andy as he picks up the phone and tells the operator to give him the mayor’s office. A second phone on the desk of the sheriff/judge rings and Taylor picks it up and answers, “Mayor’s office, Mayor speaking.”

Any first-year law student would know an attorney cannot rule on his own objection. That is very definition of a kangaroo court. And if he is not acquainted with that basic rule that every high school debater knows, the practice of law is the last occupation he should be pursuing. Perhaps he would be better suited to cleaning Porta-Johns.

And for that, he holds a $450,000 contract with the board.

But it gets better.

Ten years earlier, in hearings on charges against Dr. Randall Schaffer, Begue had openly violated a Louisiana Supreme Court order to cease participating in board proceedings by serving as both prosecutor and board general counsel. Yet, he continued that same practice in Dr. Haygood’s hearings before the board—and in all likelihood, will again in the next case against some unsuspecting dentist.

Haygood ultimately was convicted on eight separate charges, three of which had been dropped before his hearing took place, a quantum stretch its own right on the part of the board. He was fined $5,000 on each of the eight counts ($40,000) and ordered to pay not only his own attorney fees but those of the board and the fees of board investigator Camp Morrison (combined total of $133,000), for a total financial penalty of $173,000. Additionally, the board ordered permanent revocation of Haygood’s dentistry license.

The activities of board-contracted private investigator Morrison are almost as bad—except he has received eight contracts since 1997 totaling “only” $1.735 million, more than a million dollars less than Begue, but still nothing to sneeze at.

What’s more, the board pushed a bill through the Louisiana Legislature two years ago that allows the board to provide legal representation for Morrison—at the board’s (read: taxpayer) cost, a benefit bestowed upon no other state contractor.

Also, Morrison is provided a rent-free office in the LSBD suite on the 26th floor of One Canal Place in New Orleans, a suite for which the board pays a whopping $4,700 per month in rent.

Occasionally, contract workers for state agencies are provided work space in state offices but that is only for those jobs which cannot be performed offsite. But it is unheard of for a state contractor to be provided legal representation. In fact, the reverse is true. Contractors are required to maintain their own errors and omission insurance and to provide their own legal counsel in case of litigation—and those contracts contain hold harmless clauses, or indemnification, for the state.

So, the question obviously is what did Dr. Haygood do to bring the wrath of the LSDB down upon him?

A better question might be what did Morrison and Begue do?

We will attempt to address the two questions in order.

Apparently, Haygood’s biggest sin was opening offices in Shreveport and Bossier City and initiating an aggressive advertising campaign that resulted in attracting former patients of prominent Shreveport dentist Ross Dies who was one of several defendants named in a federal lawsuit filed by Haygood.

Other defendants include Morrison; unlicensed investigators Karen Moorhead and Dana Glorioso hired by Morrison and who Haygood says posed as patients, giving him false symptoms in order to help Morrison build his case against Haywood; former LSDB executive director Barry Ogden; members of LSBD, and several dentists who Haygood says assisted LSDB in its investigation of him.

The fact that board member Dr. H.O. Blackwood also was a Haygood competitor in the Shreveport area didn’t help, Haygood says in his lawsuit.

Haygood says in his lawsuit that Ogden and Begue were “well aware” at the time Ogden appointed Begue as independent counsel that Begue had already “participated in the investigation or prosecution of the case” against Haygood. “In fact, Begue began discussing the investigation with Morrison as early as April 2007, at the outset of the investigation, and he conducted conversations with Ogden, Morrison and other board members regarding the status of the investigation long before he (Begue) was appointed independent counsel.” Haygood said that as long-time counsel for the board, Begue “was aware that his activities prior to the appointment by Ogden disqualified him for service as independent counsel.”

Haygood said that aggressive, unrestrained investigation tactics employed by Morrison and Begue “create an obligation of the board to pay costs that it is typically unable to pay,” costs that are passed on to the dentist under investigation if he is convicted—and few brought before the board escape without some type of monetary penalty.

“Morrison utilizes coercive and threatening tactics when interviewing witnesses,” Haygood said. While conducting his investigation of Haygood, for example, Morrison appeared at the home of Haygood’s hygienist, Julie Snyder, at 8:30 p.m. during her maternity leave, the lawsuit says. “Finding her home alone with her newborn baby, Morrison told Snyder that he knew that she and Haygood were guilty and pressed her to admit wrongdoing, Haygood says, adding that other dentists “have had to have police officers assist in removing Morrison from their offices after he refused to leave.”

It should be noted that when a dentist is brought before the board for a hearing on charges brought against him, the board is represented by Begue and another lawyer designated as the prosecuting attorney. The dentist, on the other hand, is not allowed to have legal representation before the board.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, in its September 2012 ruling, noted that board member Dr. Conrad McVea, Jr. directed Morrison “to send people in” to Haygood’s offices. This was the son of former board member Conrad McVea, Sr. who told Dr. Randall Schaffer, who is Jewish, that he could never maintain the professional standard of care in his practice because he had never accepted Jesus as his personal savior. The obvious question here is: are board memberships passed down from father to son like some type of inheritance or family heirloom?

Moorhead was recommended as one of the two unlicensed investigators to pose as patients by Dr. White Graves, a former board member and Moorhead’s employer, the Fourth Circuit decision says.

“Dr. Haygood argues that he was not afforded due process at the hearing before the board,” the appeal court said. “He also contends that during four days of testimony, Mr. Begue ‘repeatedly interfered and zealously advocated on behalf of the board by cross-examining witnesses, supplying objections to complaint counsel, and questioning the credibility of Dr. Haygood.’

“We have comprehensively reviewed the transcripts of the four-day hearing and we agree with Dr. Haygood’s representation of Mr. Begue’s actions.”

The Fourth Circuit’s decision further said that Begue’s “twofold role as prosecutor and adjudicator violated Dr. Haygood’s right to a hearing that is fair and impartial. The type of commingling found in this case is strictly prohibited by the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act.

“Based upon our review of the record, we find that Mr. Begue’s functions of general counsel, independent counsel, prosecutor and fact-finder were so interwoven that they became indistinguishable, which created the appearance of impropriety and deprived the proceedings of the imperative and fundamental appearance of fairness.

“Therefore, the board’s decision to revoke Dr. Haygood’s license must be reversed,” the ruling said, adding that the board “improperly combined the prosecutorial and judicial functions by allowing its general counsel, Mr. Begue, to serve as the prosecutor, general counsel, panel member and adjudicator for the proceedings. We hold this conduct is violative of the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act and Dr. Haygood’s due process right to a neutral adjudicator and a fair hearing.”

“We find the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry’s decision to revoke Dr. C. Ryan Haygood’s dental license is arbitrary and capricious; therefore, we reverse the trial court’s judgment (the state district court had earlier upheld most of the board’s actions) which affirmed the revocation of Dr. Haygood’s license and remand this matter to the board for a new hearing.”

Wait. What? Remanded to the board for a new hearing?

Yep. The Haygood matter went right back to the board to be heard by the same panel.

You don’t need three tries to guess the odds of a different outcome for the rehearing. One might have a better chance in Warren Buffett’s $1 billion prize for picking the winner of every game in the NCAA March Madness bracket.

Haygood, realizing he would never receive a fair hearing, much less a different outcome in repeated appearances before the board, finally packed up his chair and drill and moved to North Carolina where he currently practices his trade. But because he refuses to give the board the satisfaction of backing down, his hearing is still pending.

And that is how kangaroo courts work.

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LouisianaVoice has learned of an ongoing pattern by at least one state board to indiscriminately impose stiff penalties and fines of tens of thousands of dollars against dental professionals for perceived violations of a dizzying array of confusing and obscure regulations that seem to pop up with no prior warning, no explanation and with little or no due process.

The Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (LSBD) operates with complete autonomy as it serves as prosecutor, judge and jury in bringing charges and then conducts its own hearings and then rules on those charges, often hitting dentists, dental assistants and dental hygienists with five-figure fines.

Many of these charges are the result of apparent entrapment on the part of the LSBD and an investigator under contract to the board, according to its victims.

Moreover, the LSBD, which receives no state funding for its operations, still manages to award lucrative contracts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to attorneys and private investigators, according to state records obtained by LouisianaVoice.

LSBD’s funding comes exclusively from fines levied against dental professionals, giving the board strong incentive to conjure up charges and hand down stiff fines in order to pay for those contracts.

Taking the contract of board of attorney Brian Begue, records show he was awarded a one-year contract of $175,000 in June of 1995. That contract was renewed for the same amount in June of 1996.

In June of 1997, a new three-year, $225,000 contract was given Begue. He again was given three-year contracts in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012, but the contract amounts for each of the last five contracts was doubled to $450,000.

One source said Begue did not routinely submit time sheets indicating how much time was spent doing legal work for the board. Instead, he would simply give the board a piece of paper with an amount to be paid for his services.

Even as it was bestowing those contracts on Begue, the board was also awarding lucrative contracts on New Orleans private investigator Camp Morrison. Beginning in March of 1997, he received a three-year, $45,000 contract to investigate dentists who might be in violation of some rule or regulation.

In 2000, Morrison’s new contract was for only two years but the contract amount jumped to $150,000, then to $200,000 in 2002, to $240,000 in 2004 where it remained for each two-year term until last year when his contract was renewed for three years—and increased to $340,000.

Even more curious was the disparity between contract begin dates and approval dates. For example, Morrison’s 2002 contract began on Sept. 1 but was not approved until May 19, 2003. His 2008 contract for $240,000 started on Sept. 1 but was not approved until Dec. 28, 2009—almost 15 months after the begin date.

A familiar name surfaced on April 13, 2000, when a two-year, $100,000 contract backdated to Mar. 1 was awarded to Jimmy Faircloth, who would later reveal in open court the board’s ulterior motive in pursuing charges against one dentist.

In that case that progressed to a federal courtroom trial the presiding judge was questioning why Faircloth was so determined to prosecute Dr. Randall Schaffer who had revealed design flaws in a TMJ implant developed by the LSU School Dentistry, Faircloth pointed to then-LSBD executive director Barry Ogden, telling the judge that Ogden had instructed him to get Schaefer “no matter what it cost.”

Faircloth subsequently received a second two-year contract for $50,000, effective Nov. 1, 2010, but not approved until April 19, 2011. That contract was renewed for 20 months and $50,000 in 2012

The board even went so far as to have legislation passed whereby it provides legal representation for Morrison, its contracted investigator, in cases where litigation is brought against Morrison—a practice unprecedented for a state agency. Contracts issued by every other agency contain provisions that the contractor must provide and pay for his own liability coverage and state contracts further stipulate that contractors shall incur their own legal costs while holding the state harmless.

That could be because of Morrison’s practice of hiring unlicensed personnel to conduct investigations and of actions that some say border on entrapment.

The manner in which the board serves as accuser, judge and jury, Begue’s dual function as both the board’s general counsel and as prosecutor may have prompted former State Sen. Max Malone (R-Shreveport) to react to allegations of harassment and extortion by the board by rising on the Senate floor to brand the board and its members as “corrupt.”

The enforcement muscle flexed by the board usually intimidates those accused of wrongdoing to pay fines without resistance because of the costs involved and because they know they will be going up against a stacked deck.

An example of the abuse inflicted by the board is the case of two Shreveport dental hygienists who were accused of fraud by the board and who were presented a consent decree to sign which contained substantial penalties, including 90-day suspensions, fines and legal costs.

The hygienists refused to sign the initial consent decree even in the face of the steep odds that they faced.

The board, however, because of its own vulnerable position, came back with a second consent decree that removed the fraud term, replacing it with failure to provide the acceptable standard of care, fines of $500 each and legal costs of $15,000, and remedial training with no suspensions.

So, why did the board come back with a reduced penalty and why did the two accused sign? First, the hygienists were fully aware of the power of the board to take away their livelihoods by revoking their license.

But the board’s investigator, Morrison, had made the mistake of sending in unlicensed investigators posing as patients to be seen by the hygienists. Additionally, the board allegedly offered one hygienist immunity if she would say that her boss, a Shreveport dentist, ordered her to falsify information obtained by the hygienist in her examination.

In exchange, the hygienists were required to waive any challenge to the complaint against them.

More revealing, however, was the requirement that the hygienists “hereby release and forever discharge the board, its executive director, its investigator and any of the agents, employees, representatives, officers, members, attorneys and investigators of the board, including but not limited to Camp Morrison, Dana Glorioso and Karen Moorhead, from any and all claims, damages, causes of action, or other claims of any nature whatsoever, known or unknown, asserted or unasserted, arising from any set of facts of circumstances existing as of the date of this agreement, including, but not limited to any claims of improper investigation, prosecutorial misconduct, defamation, or invasion of privacy.” (Emphasis added.)

LSBD spokespersons might claim this is standard verbiage but it is nevertheless significant to note that Glorioso and Moorhead were the unlicensed investigators sent into the dentist’s office under the pretense of treatment for dental problems—a practice that appears questionable at best and illegal at worst.

LouisianaVoice will be posting additional stories about the LSBD in the coming days and weeks, including the identities of the LSBD members and political contributions of dental political action committees. We also will be examining various legal cases, some of which are concluded and others that are making their way through the courts, and interviewing dental professionals who have encountered similar difficulties with the LSBD.

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It’s small wonder that Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to get out of town quickly—he departed the state for an extended trip to Asia to recruit business and industry investment in Louisiana—given the flak he is receiving from the legislature and radio talk show hosts over his hiring of a consulting firm at a cost of $4.2 million to somehow magically find $500 million in state government savings. http://theadvocate.com/csp/mediapool/sites/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls?STREAMOID=sZuDzNJoJK2fudmeRm9FJpM5tm0Zxrvol3sywaAHBAlauzovnqN0Cbyo1UqyDJ6gE0$uXvBjavsllACLNr6VhLEUIm2tympBeeq1Fwi7sIigrCfKm_F3DhYfWov3omce$8CAqP1xDAFoSAgEcS6kSQ–&CONTENTTYPE=application/pdf&CONTENTDISPOSITION=Alvarez%20Marsal%20Government%20Savings%20Contract.pdfhttp://theadvocate.com/news/8045923-123/vitter-super-pac-raises-15

And that contract doesn’t even take into account Pre-Jindal recommendations by the firm that may ultimately end up costing taxpayers $1.5 billion which, of course, would more than offset any $500 million savings it might conjure up that the Legislative Fiscal Officer, the State Treasurer, the administration, the legislature and the Legislative Auditor have been unable to do, largely because of a time honored political tradition affectionately known as turf protection.

One might even ask, for example, why representatives of the consulting firm, Alvarez & Marsal, who somewhat smugly call themselves “efficiency engineers,” were wasting their time Friday at the gutted Office of Risk Management. Isn’t there already a promise of $20 million in savings on the table as a result of Jindal’s privatization of that agency four years ago? For just that one small agency, that’s 4 percent of the entire $500 million in savings Jindal is seeking through the $4 million contract. (The elusive $500 million savings, for the real political junkies, represents only 2 percent of the state budget.)

The Baton Rouge Advocate also got in on the act on Saturday with Michelle Millhollon’s excellent story that  noted that the actual contract contains no mention of a $500 million savings. http://theadvocate.com/home/8131113-125/vaunted-savings-not-included-in

That revelation which is certain to further antagonize legislators, including Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) whom Jindal will now probably try to teague for his criticism of the governor’s penchant for secrecy.

Hey guys, your contract is only for four months, so why waste your time in an agency that supposedly is on the cusp of a $20 million savings? That ain’t very efficient, if you ask us.

Legislators immediately voiced their displeasure at the contract. “There’s a lot of people who don’t like it,” said Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington), a one-time staunch Jindal ally.

Rep. Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee (if he hasn’t been teagued by now), said when the dust settles any cost cutting will ultimately be the responsibility of state officials. “Even the best PowerPoint presentation isn’t going to cut government,” he said. “The trick is to make the political choices.”

The contract raises immediate questions how Jindal, now entering his seventh year in office, could justify the move in light of his many boasts of efficiencies his administration has supposedly initiated.

Ruth Johnson, who is overseeing the contract for the Division of Administration, defended the deal with the simplistic and less than satisfactory logic that “Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.”

And while Jindal has indicated he wants a final set of recommendations in April, the contract runs through 2016, meaning the final cost could far exceed the $4.2 million Alvarez & Marsal is scheduled to receive for its review.

Jim Engster, host of a talk show on public radio in Baton Rouge, on Friday predicted during an interview with State Treasurer John Kennedy that Alvarez & Marsal’s final report will most likely bear an uncanny resemblance to the 400-plus-page interim report of Dec. 18, 2009, by the infamous Commission on Streamlining Government.

The hearings by that commission, you may remember, gave birth to the term teaguing, a favorite tactic employed by the Jindal administration when a state employee or legislator refuses to toe the line. A state employee named Melody Teague testified before that commission and was summarily fired the following day. Six months later her husband, Tommy Teague, was fired as head of the Office of Group Benefits when he was slow in getting on board the Jindal Privatization Express. Mrs. Teague appealed and was reinstated but her husband took employment elsewhere in a less volatile environment.

The Alvarez & and Marsal representatives have pleaded ignorant to questions of whether their report will draw heavily from the four-year-old commission report and even professed to not know of its existence.

A curious denial indeed, given that Johnson was also the ramrod over the streamlining commission during Jindal’s second year in office. Does she not share this information with the firm or was all that commission work for naught? Or part of Jindal’s infamous deliberative process? Curious also in that Alvarez & Marsal is specifically cited—by name—no fewer than six times in the report’s first 51 pages, each of which is in the context of privatizing the state’s charity hospital system. The report quoted the firm as recommending that:

  • “The governor and the legislature authorize and direct the LSU Health System to adopt the recommendations of Alvarez and Marsal for the operation of the interim Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The governor and legislature direct every other charity hospital in Louisiana to contract for a similar financial and operational assessment with a third party private sector consulting firm, such as but not necessarily Alvarez and Marsal, that specializes and has a proven track record in turnaround management, corporate restructuring and performance improvement for institutions and their stakeholders.”

That’s right. That is where the seed was apparently first planted for the planned privatization of the LSU Hospital system, even to the point of directing the LSU Board of Stuporvisors to vote to allow a Shreveport foundation run by one of the LSU stuporvisors to take over the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. Alvarez & Kelly performed that bit of work under a $1.7 million contract that ran for nine months in 2009, from Jan. 5 to Sept. 30 (almost $200,000 per month).

Alvarez & Marsal also received a $250,000, contract of a much shorter duration (10 days) from Jindal on April 9, 2013, to develop Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the state income taxes in favor of other tax increases. That quickie, ill-conceived plan was dead on arrival during the legislative session and Jindal quickly punted before a single legislative vote could be taken

But Alvarez & Marsal’s cozy if disastrous relationship with state government goes back further than Jindal, even. http://www.alvarezandmarsal.com/case-study-new-orleans-public-schools It’s a relationship that could become one of the most costly in state history—unless of course, the state chooses to ignore a court judgment in the same manner as it has ignored a $100 million-plus award (now in the neighborhood of a quarter-billion dollars—with judicial interest) stemming from a 1983 class-action flood case in Tangipahoa Parish.

In fact, the state probably has no choice but to ignore the judgment as an alternative to bankrupting the state but that does little to remove the stigma attached to a horrendous decision to accept the recommendation of Alvarez and Marsal which subsequently was rewarded with a $29.1 million three-year state contract from April 4, 2006 to April 3, 2009 to “develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated disaster recovery plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

In December of 2005, the Orleans Parish School Board adopted Resolution 59-05 on the advice of the crack consulting firm that Jindal somehow thinks is going to be the state’s financial salvation.

That resolution, passed in the aftermath of disastrous Hurricane Katrina was specifically cited in the ruling earlier this week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal that upheld a lower court decision the school board was wrong to fire 7,500 teachers, effective Jan. 31, 2006. The wording contained in the ruling said:

  • “In December 2005, the OPSB passed Resolution No. 59-05 upon the advice and recommendation of its state-selected and controlled financial consultants, the New York-based firm of Alvarez & Marsal. The Resolution called for the termination of all New Orleans Public School employees placed on unpaid “Disaster Leave” after Hurricane Katrina, to take effect on January 31, 2006.1 On the day that the mass terminations were scheduled to take place, Plaintiffs amended their petition to seek a temporary restraining order preventing the OPSB from terminating all of its estimated 7,500 current employees at the close of business on that day. The trial court granted the TRO and this Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied writs on the issue. The TRO was later converted into a preliminary injunction that restrained, enjoined and prohibited the OPSB, et al, from “terminating the employment of Plaintiffs and other New Orleans Public School employees until they are afforded the due process safeguards provided in the Orleans Parish School Board’s Reduction in Force Policy 4118.4.” Nevertheless, Plaintiffs and thousands of other employees were terminated on March 24, 2006, after form letters were mailed to the last known address of all employees of record as of August 29, 2005.”

The appellate court upheld the award of more than $1 million to seven lead plaintiffs in the case of Oliver v. Orleans Parish School Board but adjusted the lower court’s damage award, ordering the school board and the Louisiana Department of Education to pay two years of back pay and benefits and an additional year of back pay and benefits to teachers who meet certain unspecified requirements.

Immediately following Katrina, state-appointed Alvarez and Marsal set up a call center to collect post-Katrina addresses for a majority of staff members in time for the anticipated layoffs. But when the state began the hiring process for schools that had been taken over, the terminated employees were never called, prompting plaintiff attorneys to charge that the entire procedure was intentional and part of the state’s plan to take over the Orleans Parish school system.

Plaintiffs said that then-State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard chose Alvarez & Marsal to prevail upon the school board to replace acting parish Superintendent Ora Watson with an Alvarez & Marsal consultant.

So, Watson was replaced, 7,500 teachers were fired, and the teachers sued and won, leaving the Orleans School Board and the state liable for a billion-five and the firm that started it all is hired by Jindal to find savings of an unspecified amount. What could possibly go wrong?

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“Quite simply, the court finds defendants’ protestations that they acted in ‘good faith’ when installing the awnings and soaker hoses to be incredible. Defendants breached their duty to preserve the status quo on death row with the goal of thwarting accurate measurement of temperatures, humidity and heat index. This intentional, and by plaintiffs’ unrebutted account successful, destruction of unfavorable evidence is quite sufficient to satisfy the ‘bad faith’ standard.”

—Federal Middle District Court Judge Brian A. Jackson, in ruling for sanctions against a Baton Rouge law firm with $3 million in state contracts, for its actions in a lawsuit against the state by three death row inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

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State and national media recently devoted major coverage to a federal district judge’s ruling that death row inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, but an accompanying court ruling leaves open the possibility that attorneys representing the state could be sanctioned, suspended and even disbarred for their activity in the lawsuit.

The sanctions ruling just happens to involve one of Baton Rouge’s major law firms, Shows, Cali and Walsh, which has at least 16 active contracts with various state agencies worth a combined $3 million.

Besides the $30,000 contract dated July 1, 2013, to defend the state in the Angola litigation, the firm currently has:

  • A contract for $640,000 with the Louisiana Attorney General for legal services in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (April 1, 2013 to Mar. 31, 2016);
  • A contract for $600,000 with the Division of Administration’s Office of Community Development for legal services to review and analyze Road Home files for overpayments, ineligible grantees and to negotiate and collect funds due the state (May 21, 2013 to May 20, 2016);
  • A contract for $500,000 with the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) to provide legal counsel and representation to LWC’s Louisiana Rehabilitation Services Program paid at a rate of $15,000 per month (Feb. 16, 2011 to Feb. 15, 2014);
  • A contract for $375,000 with the Louisiana State Board of Nursing to provide legal counsel (July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014;
  • A contract for $300,000 with the Attorney General’s office to provide legal services in the Tobacco Arbitration Funding (April 1, 2013 to Mar. 30, 2016).

The sanctions ruling is significant not only in the identity of the firm and the attorneys involved, but also because it is a reflection of lengths to which the state apparently is willing to go to protect its interests—even to the point of evidence manipulation and an attempted cover up of that activity.

Inmates Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee, who were convicted for the murders of six persons in three separate cases, filed the suit last July, claiming that extreme heat and a lack of cool water in their unventilated cells constituted a health risk. Their petition named as defendants the Department of Corrections, Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc, Angola Warden Burl Cain and Assistant Warden Angelia Norwood.

While death row inmates generally are not sympathetic figures—they’re there, after all, because they killed someone—Judge Brian A. Jackson nevertheless said in a 102-page ruling that conditions violated the 8th Amendment rights of not only the three plaintiffs but all 82 inmates housed on Angola’s death row tiers.

His 51-page ruling on a motion by plaintiffs for sanctions of attorneys representing the state, however, received scant attention, warranting only brief mentions in most news accounts.

His ruling called for a hearing for plaintiff attorneys to show cause why they should not have sanctions imposed for their failure to provide timely discovery to defendants and for a “lack of candor” to judges and to opposing counsel.

And while Judge Jackson declined to impose sanctions for spoliation of evidence in the case, he did order that Shows, Cali and Walsh reimburse plaintiffs for their legal costs for preparing their motion for spoliation “as well as any cost of discovery or fees attendant to the preparation of those filings.”

One of the more egregious sins was that of firm partner Wade Shows who told Judge Jackson that Magistrate Judge Stephen Riedlinger had approved measures taken by plaintiffs to lower temperatures at two of the tiers of death row. Those measures included the installation—under cover of night—of awnings over windows to reduce the intensity of the afternoon sun and of attempts to lower temperatures by installing soaker hoses.

Both steps were taken after Judge Jackson had ordered data collection to measure temperatures and the heat index on death row and were interpreted by the judge as a deliberate attempt to undermine the accuracy of the data collection in defendants’ favor.

Cain, in his deposition, even admitted as much: “We are actually misting the walls of the building to try to see if we can get the cinder blocks to be cooler so then they won’t conduct the heat all the way through.”

But even worse, Shows “asserted that Magistrate Judge Stephen Riedringer ‘knew’ that defendant planned to take such actions, and also asserted that counsel informed Judge Riedlinger of defendants’ intentions during the parties’ settlement conference on July 25.”

Judge Jackson added that defendants’ counsel, in a memorandum opposing plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions, said Riedlinger “endorsed defendants’ modifications to the death row tiers.”

Defendants’ co-counsel Amy McInnis on Aug. 5 “persisted in her position” that Riedlinger “tacitly approved defendants’ actions even after this court cautioned about relating the contents of confidential settlement discussions.”

The biggest problem with Shows’ representation was that it was so easy to ascertain the veracity of his claim. Judge Jackson did, and what he learned must have sent chills down the spines of the state’s attorneys:

“I have conferred with the Magistrate Judge,” Judge Jackson told McInnis. “And he has made it very clear to me, and if necessary, I will produce evidence, that he gave no party any approval to make any material changes.”

Judge Jackson said he felt “it is the case that to the extent there were discussions of the installation of awnings and other devices, that it was …contingent upon a settlement in the case.”

Then, giving McInnis some wiggle room, he said, “So, I want to ask you to be very, very careful, Ms. McInnis. Because if you tell me, as Mr. Shows told me, that the Magistrate Judge knew it and at least tacitly approved it, I am obligated then to verify that.

“And if the one person who is in position to verify that doesn’t verify it, then I’m in a position to impose not just sanctions on the parties. I may have to impose sanctions on counsel.”

Later, in issuing his ruling, Judge Jackson was adamant in his dissatisfaction with defense counsels’ behavior in the matter.

“…This court takes a moment to address its grave reservations regarding defense counsels’ conduct in the course of this litigation. In assessing plaintiffs’ motions for sanctions, it appears that defendants’ counsel deliberately dodged requests for information related to the cost of installing air conditioning; avoided turning over to plaintiffs information regarding defendants’ installation of soaker hoses; and when confronted with information regarding defendants’ willful attempts to manipulate data collection in the death row tiers, excused defendants’ behavior by creating the impression that remedial measures were approved and encouraged by Magistrate Judge Riedlinger. In light of defense counsel’s various representations to opposing counsel and this court—particularly those (who) suggested that the magistrate judge endorsed and approved defendants’ attempts to manipulate data collection in the death row tiers when in fact, no such approval was given—there appears to be a basis to sanction defendants’ counsel individually for lack of candor to the tribunal and lack of candor to opposing counsel.

“The court further finds that sanctions are appropriate based on defendants’ failure to supplement their responses to plaintiffs’ interrogatories with information regarding the installation of soaker hoses on the selected death row tiers.”

In granting plaintiffs’ motions that they seek reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs, Judge Jackson ordered that plaintiffs file a motion for attorney’s fees and costs from Shows, McInnis and a third attorney.

“It is further ordered, in light of the court’s serious concerns regarding defense counsel’s lack of candor, that defendants’ counsel E. Wade Shows, Amy L. McInnis and Jacqueline B. Wilson show cause why sanctions should not be imposed against each personally…possible sanctions to include, but not limited to, reprimand, ethics training, suspension, disbarment and/or the payment of attorneys’ fees to cover the cost of motions and discovery to this proceeding.”

Just another day of openness, accountability and transparency for the gold standard of ethics in this administration.

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