Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

While Bobby Jindal is touting all the wonderful innovations, budget cuts, employee reductions, etc., that he has initiated in Louisiana, The Center for Public Integrity has a few items he may wish to soft peddle as he goes about trying to convince Iowans that he’s really serious about running for President and not the joke we in Louisiana know him to be.

The center has just released its 2015 integrity grades for each state and it isn’t very pretty for Louisiana.

In fact, the state received a flat-out grade of F and ranked 41st out of the 50 states overall with a composite score of 59 out of a possible 100. Only seven states had lower composite scores—Pennsylvania and Oregon (58), Nevada (57), Delaware and South Dakota (56), and Michigan and Wyoming (51).

Mississippi (61) and Alabama (67), normally found competing for Louisiana on lists of all things bad, were well ahead of Louisiana with rankings of 33rd and 7th, respectively. Alaska had the highest score at 71, good enough for a C. Michigan was the worst with its 51.

Louisiana wasn’t alone in getting a failing grade of course; there were 10 others but in the other states we can only assume the governors are at least attempting to address their problems. Jindal isn’t. He capitulated long ago as he set out on his quest for the brass ring that continues—and will continue—to elude him. Though he has only two months to go in office, he in reality abandoned us three years and 10 months ago—right after he was inaugurated for his second term. Truth be told, he has been at best a distracted administrator (I still can’t bring myself to call him a governor) for his full eight years and at worst, guilty of malfeasance in his dereliction of duty.

Harsh words, to be sure, but then his record screams out his shortcomings (loud enough to be heard in Iowa, one would think) and his lack of a basic understanding of running a lemonade stand, much less a state.

States were graded on 13 criteria by the Center for Public Integrity:

  • Public Access to Information—F
  • Political Financing—D
  • Electoral Oversight—D+
  • Executive Accountability—F
  • Legislative Accountability—F
  • Judicial Accountability—F
  • State Budget Processes—D+
  • State Civil Service Management—F
  • Procurement—D+
  • Internal Auditing—C+
  • Lobbying Disclosure—D
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies—F
  • State Pension Fund Management—F


The scores given each of these, and their national ranking were even more revealing.

Public Access to Information, for example scored a dismal 30, ranking 46th in the country.

In the scoring for Internal Auditing, on the other hand, the state’s numerical score was 79, but was good enough for only a ranking of 32nd.

Likewise, the grading for Procurement (purchase of goods and contracts) had a numeric score of 69, good enough to rank the state 25th. But numeric score of 64 for Lobbying Disclosure while rating only a D, was still good enough to nudge the state into the upper half of the rankings at 24th.

One of the biggest areas of concern would have to be the state’s numeric grade of only 40 for Judicial Accountability, plunging the state to next to last at 49th. (This is an area that has flown under the radar but one the legislature and next governor should address.)

The lowest numeric score was 30 for Public Access to Information, fifth from the bottom at 46th. LouisianaVoice can certainly attest to the difficulty in obtaining public records, having found it necessary to file lawsuit against the state on three occasions in order to obtain what were clearly public records. Even after winning two of the three lawsuits, we still experience intolerable foot-dragging as agencies attempt to stall in the hopes we will give up.

We will not. If anything, the stalling only strengthens our resolve to fight for the public’s right to know.

To compare Louisiana to other states in each of the 13 criteria, go here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18822/how-does-your-state-rank-integrity

In the final days of the 2015 legislative session the state Senate approved a bill that removed the exemptions pushed through by Jindal in his first month in office in 2008 which kept most government records from disclosure. State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) was quoted in the report as saying, “It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

Jindal called his changes his “gold standard,” but the report said it is “riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

That looked like a promising reversal to the secrecy of the Jindal administration but then the legislature agreed to postpone implementation of the new law that abolished the abused “deliberative process” exception until after Jindal leaves office next January.

Jindal also managed to gut the state’s ethics laws early in his first year. Enforcement of ethics violations was removed from the State Ethics Board and transferred to judges selected by a Jindal appointee. That prompted long-time political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport to say that while the state’s ethics laws looked good on the surface, there was “no effective enforcement and that breeds more than just a system of corruption, but an acceptance of those practices,” the center’s report said.

The center reported that it is not Louisiana’s ethics laws that produced such a poor grade, but the day-to-day interpretations of the laws by various departmental legal advisors.

Since the center’s first survey of public integrity on a state-by-state basis, no fewer than 12 states have had legislators or cabinet-level officials charged, convicted or resign over ethics-related issues, the report said.

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A professor of Criminal Justice and retired Louisiana State Police Officer compares drug offenses with sex crimes in Louisiana in response to David Vitter’s vitriolic political ads suggesting that releasing non-violent drug offenders will harm public safety.

By Wayne “Steve” Thompson, PhD (Special to LouisianaVoice)

According to Louisiana Revised Statute 40:967, the state of Louisiana has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for possession of 28 grams of cocaine or crack cocaine. According to Louisiana Revised Statute 14:34, the state of Louisiana does not have a mandatory minimum for aggravated battery which includes shooting or stabbing someone. Second degree rape has a mandatory minimum of two years (LRS 14:42.1). To sum it up, a man who threatens to kill a woman so she will not resist while he rapes her is required to do less time in jail than a person with a handful of cocaine or crack cocaine.

I have personally worked cases involving drug use and drug dealing resulting in decades if not centuries of incarceration. I have served numerous warrants on drug dealers while serving on the LSP SWAT team. I have assisted in the investigation of sex crimes cases. I found it frustrating the level of leniency towards sex offenders who received less punishment than drug offenders. Leniency for sex offenders is required to make sure there is room for the statutorily mandated sentences of non-violent drug offenders. My frustrations are shared by many in the criminal justice community.

Incarceration does not work

 Thirty-two percent of state felony convictions were for drug offenses in 2002 and more than 60 percent of those were sentenced to incarceration (Vanderwaal et al., 2006). There were 253,300 drug offenders in state prisons in 2005 (United States Department of Justice, 2008). The estimated cost of incarcerating these offenders is from $5 billion to $8 billion dollars per year. The average incarceration cost per offender is around $30,000 per year.

The drug war is an exercise of futility. Drug prices have gone down and the availability of drugs has increased (Caulkins & MacCoun, 2003). Long incarcerations result in higher recidivism or have zero effectiveness in reducing recidivism (Marinelli-Casey, et al., 2008; Caulkins & Reuter, 2006; Harvard Law Review, 1998; Vanderwaal et al., 2006). The user is still able to obtain drugs because there are plenty of people willing to stand in for a drug dealer when he or she is incarcerated. It is not the same for a violent offender. There is no line of violent offenders who want to step into the shoes of a sex offender, robber, or murderer. There are only victims. The incarceration of violent criminals can actually reduce the number of victimizations.

What does work?

According to Vanderwaal et al. (2006), drug treatment is more effective than incarceration in reducing drug use and reducing recidivism. Many states have realized this evidenced by numerous legislative acts which reduce mandatory minimum sentences and the establishment of over 1,600 drug courts by the end of 2004. The Back on Track (BOT) program in California is focused on first time low level drug dealers. They participate in extensive community service and meet positive goals such as school and employment requirements. If the participants successfully complete the program, they have their records sealed. Rivers (2009) reported the program has a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent and the cost is only $5,000 per participant. When this amount is compared to the reported prosecution expense of $10,000 and an annual incarceration rate of up to $50,000, it is a great success, a bargain for taxpayers.

Why does Louisiana lead the world in incarceration rates?

Research based treatment programs are a common sense alternative to incarceration that improves the ability to incarcerate violent offenders. An ad recently released in the Louisiana gubernatorial campaign condemned efforts to release up to 5,500 nonviolent drug offenders. That is 5,500 prison beds that can be used for violent offenders. The fiscal impact alone based on current incarceration costs is a savings of approximately $165 million every year. I am sure our schools could use that money.

The excessive punishments have been inspired by political popularity which also inhibits our ability to use common sense penalties and treatment. The public and law enforcement have shifted to the ideals that the drug problem is social, psychological, biological, and medical. The criminal justice system is ill equipped to deal with such problems.

Politicians are hesitant to change how we treat drug offenders for fear of appearing soft on crime resulting in damage to a political career. The fear is not created by the person who chooses innovation over ineffectiveness. The fear is created by opponents of the candidate by taking the methods out of context. I will attempt to place them in context.

Any effort to reduce the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders through research proven treatment is a stance against violent criminals. Those who oppose such efforts are actually supporting keeping violent offenders in our midst. An attempt to create fear for political gain is described by Sheriff Tony Mancuso of Calcasieu Parish as “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”

Why do politicians think these ads work?

There is only one explanation, the perception of ignorance. The candidate must believe the voters at large have never dealt with a friend or family member who suffers from drug abuse and believe they should be treated versus incarcerated. We need representatives who will reduce our prison population with research proven best practices to make room for violent offenders. The people behind such political ads do not want violent offenders on the street and I would never make that claim. But, by putting such blatantly ignorant ads out, that is what they are facilitating.


Caulkins, J. P. & MacCoun, R. (2003). Limited rationality and the limits of supply reduction.       Journal of Drug Issues, 33(2), 433-464.

Caulkins, J. P. & Reuter, P. (2006). Reorienting U.S. drug policy. Issues in Science &        Technology, 23(1), 79-85.

Harvard Law Review. (1998). Alternatives to incarceration. Harvard Law Review, 111(7), 1863-  1991.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:34. (1980). Aggravated Battery.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:42.1. (2001). Forcible Rape.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:967. (2007). Prohibited Acts-Schedule II, Penalties.

Marinelli-Casey, P., Gonzales, R., Hillhouse, M., Ang, A., Zweben, J., Cohen, J. Hora, P. F., &    Rawson, R. A., (2008). Drug court treatment for methamphetamine dependence:           Treatment response and posttreatment outcomes. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.      34(2), 242-248.

Rivers, J. L. (2009). Back on track: A problem-solving reentry court. Bureau of Justice Statistics    Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved on November 22, 2009 at             http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/BackonTrackFS.pdf.

United States Department of Justice. (2008). Number of persons under jurisdiction of state           correctional authorities by most serious offense, 1980-2005. Retrieved November 24,    2009 at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/tables/corrtyptab.htm.

Vanderwaal, C. J., Chriqui, J. F., Bishop, R. M., McBride, D. C., & Longshore, D. Y. (2006).       State drug policy reform movement: The use of ballot initiatives and legislation to       promote diversion to drug treatment. Journal of Drug Issues, 36(3), 619-648.

Editor’s note: In one of the two debates attended by Vitter prior to the Oct. 24 primary election, both he and State Rep. John Bel Edwards agreed that alternative programs needed to be implemented in order to alleviate prison overcrowding. That, of course, was before Vitter decided to ignore his own position to the issue and to paint Edwards as “soft on crime.”

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For political junkies and political reporters out there, this is just the ticket and it’s coming out party is tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8, just in time for Louisiana’s fall elections.

Freagle, a free political social network designed to connect voters and candidates to engage the way our founders intended, will debut in Louisiana on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

LouisianaVoice anticipates it will make regular use of the site in order to keep its readers updated on political candidates.

Freagle.com will provide a personalized political platform on which voters can customize their issue and election preferences in order to cut through the noise and spin of our current political dialogue to learn who is on their ballot and where those candidates stand on the particular issues they care about.

“Freagle is designed to connect voters to the candidates on their ballot and provide a simple mechanism for learning about where they stand and what they will do if elected,” Freagle founder and CEO Niki Papazoglakis said. “It also allows candidates to easily engage with voters on the topics they care about individually without expensive micro-targeting and polling.”

Freagle is currently operating at: http://www.freagle.com/ . The full site will be live on Tuesday.

Citizens who use Freagle can easily determine who is on their ballot, in their specific precincts. The site will use the voter’s address to automatically connect them to the races on their ballots, but voters also have the ability to manually follow races in other districts. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

“I hope that by making it easy and convenient for voters to be informed and engaged on elections and amendments, more people will turn out to the polls this fall and feel confident that the votes they cast are for the people and topics that best reflect their personal views,” Papazoglakis said. “Ultimately, I hope that Freagle is a catalyst to re-engage voters in this representative democracy and get us back to a citizen-led government.”

Freagle’s other features will include:

  • Simple means of comparing candidates. Election forums will allow voters to conduct side-by-side comparisons of the candidates in each race on their ballot and on individual issues.
  • On-Demand candidates’ debates. Voters can pose questions to all candidates in a race who subscribe to Freagle from the Election Forum wall rather than individually through other venues like websites, Facebook or Twitter and without having to be selected or have timed responses in live forums.
  • My Ballot tool. Voters can research and make voting decisions throughout the election cycle and print their choices before going to the polls.
  • Verification. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

Papazoglakis said Freagle would also be a valuable tool for the news media. “The media will have a simple place to track all of the elections from a single location including who has qualified in each race, where the candidates stand on the issues, and how they are engaging with voters, “ she said. “In addition, comprehensive campaign finance reports are easily accessed from each candidate’s profile.”

Freagle will feature a custom report from the state Ethics Commission that will have significantly more information than the standard download from the Ethics website, Papazoglakis said, adding that the site will also include all campaign contributions for each candidate.

News media outlets wanting more information about Freagle should contact Papazoglakis at (225) 615-4570 or niki@freagle.com.

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That hateful, smugly, self-serving Executive Order 15-8 signed by Grovernor Jindal on Tuesday could ultimately blow up in his face, although his tenure as grovernor will be long over by the time the courts get around to ruling on his license to openly discriminate against gays.

In case you’ve been living in a cave these past few months, Jindal signed the executive order this week, in effect enacting the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act only hours after House Bill 707 by freshman Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) was rejected in a 10-2 vote by the House Civil Law Committee.

Similar bills were passed by state legislatures in Indiana and Arkansas earlier this year.

Standing beside Jindal as he made the announcement of the executive order was Johnson but that ceremony could well be as close to a victory for the bill as the two tools of Gene Mills, Tony Perkins and Grover Norquist will get.

That’s because a challenge to a previous executive order, BJ 2012-16 (that would be the 16th executive order of year 2012) was upheld by the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge back in December and last month the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear the matter.

Janice Clark, 19th District Court Judge in Baton Rouge had approved the state’s motion to dismiss the case brought by the Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA) and the Louisiana State Medical Society against the Department of Insurance over Jindal’s executive order. The case will now be tried on its merits in state district court as a result of the higher court’s reversal.

Though far from over, observers will be watching the LHA closely case as it unfolds so as to gauge the effect it has on the governor’s powers to issue executive orders such as the one he handed down on Tuesday relative to the so-called marriage and conscience act which opponents see as little more than an effort to legally deny services by retail establishments, schools and medical facilities to gay couples.

The decision by the First Circuit, throwing the challenge to Jindal’s 2012 executive order back into state district court could impact his latest executive decision as well—long after a new governor has moved into the Capitol’s fourth floor. https://casetext.com/case/la-hosp-assn-la-state-med-socy-v-state

That 2012 order, creating Rule 26, suspended existing laws and granted far-reaching powers to Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon in the wake of Hurricane Isaac in August of 2012. The order’s justification was that Donelon could “be hindered in the proper performance of his duties and responsibilities…without the authority to suspend certain statutes in the Louisiana Insurance Code and the rules and regulations that implement the Louisiana Insurance Code including, but not limited to, cancellation, nonrenewal, reinstatement, premium payment and claim filings with regard to any and all types of insurance subject to the Louisiana Insurance Code.”

Accordingly, Jindal made the suspension of rules applicable to all insurance lines, including health maintenance organizations (HMOs), health and accident insurance, as well as property and casualty lines. Read the entire Rule 26 HERE.

LHA and the State Medical Society immediately filed their joint petition seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive and declaratory relief against the Department of Insurance, challenging the constitutionality of the rule.

Along with several other specific challenges, they claimed that the state statute does not grant the governor the authority to make “substantive, affirmative law.”

But it is the challenge to the governor’s authority to make “substantive, affirmative law” that should attract the attention of opponents of this week’s executive order.

It’s not likely that a ruling will be made on the 2012 executive order and the accompanying Rule 26 before Jindal leaves office and even it a ruling does come down, it’s likely to be appealed. But should a ruling adverse to his 2012 order, especially on the point of the governor’s ability to make law, result, it would obviously bolster the courage of opponents of the latest order creating the marriage and conscience act that specifically singles out gays on religious grounds but which could conceivably be expanded to other target groups.

No matter which direction the legal winds ultimately blow, the resulting publicity will be used by Jindal to continue to project himself onto the national stage, an invitation that has thus far eluded him.

If he wins, he will crow that justice has prevailed because his policy was on the same page with God. Should he lose, obviously, the judiciary will have come under left-wing, liberal influence.

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

On Monday, November 5, 2012, the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB) conducted a meeting at which two members, Vice President James Sims and Greg Bordelon, engaged in racist roll call responses. Because the meeting was quietly moved up by nearly three weeks, neither I nor Rev. Freddie Lee Phillips, Louisiana’s only African American auctioneer in its history, were aware of it and thus didn’t attend (our only absence in seven years).

Upon learning of the meeting, I made a public records request for an audio recording of it.  My request was ignored for almost a month, so I threatened litigation. Reluctantly, the LALB provided the recording.  Phillips, who thought I was joking about the racist responses, was justifiably outraged when he heard the tape. He wanted the Jindal Administration to hear the recording, so I supplied it to them. Meanwhile, an Advocate reporter, Ted Griggs, took an interest in the matter, and published this article on December 22, 2012. Jindal called upon the inspector general (IG) to “investigate” the matter. That “investigation” concluded with the release of this this report on February 20, 2013 in which the behavior is excused as mere “diabetes and dentures” flaring up for Sims and Bordelon merely “mocking Sims as a North Louisiana redneck.” Griggs published a follow-up story on the IG’s report soon after its release.

I was intrigued by the recording’s revelation of LALB members, especially Vice Chairman James Sims, lambasting Jindal over his freezing their per diem payments. Despite Jindal’s signing this Executive Order effective August 5, 2012, LALB members defied the order and accepted payments for the September 2012 meeting. I raised this issue privately with LALB Attorney Larry S. Bankston via email, and he responded with an email assuring me I could address my concerns at the next meeting (January 8, 2013). Meanwhile, Phillips wanted to address the roll call responses as part of the approval of the November 5, 2012 minutes. Phillips wanted verbatim roll call responses entered into the record of those minutes.

When January 8, 2013 rolled around, Bankston was emphatic that neither Phillips nor I would be permitted to speak on our respective issues as evidenced in this video.

Louisiana Revised Statute 42:14(D) mandates an opportunity for public comment on any meeting agenda item for which a vote is taken. Since the minutes of the prior meeting requires a vote for adoption, as does approval of financials (within which the illegal per diem payments constituted a line item), Phillips and I filed this open meetings law violation lawsuit pro se on March 6, 2013. In an effort to maximize his billings to his LALB client, Bankston filed back-to-back Dilatory Exception motions (a fruitless legal technique to drag out a case’s duration). The first motion, for which oral arguments were heard on July 22, 2013, resulted in Judge Hernandez granting a 30-day period to amend the lawsuit to more succinctly state a cause of action. The second motion, for which oral arguments were heard on February 3, 2014, was denied, thus forcing Bankston to file an answer to the suit over a year after it had been filed.             Because the case was a clear violation of the law, Phillips and I filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on May 12, 2014.  Oral arguments on our motion were heard by Hernandez on August 4, 2014. We argued that the case was a violation of the open meetings laws and we were therefore entitled to $100 each from the board members for denying us the right to speak on items clearly on the agenda. In a motion for summary judgment, one side (us in this instance) argues that no issues of material fact exist which can permit the case to continue to trial; therefore, judgment should be granted to the moving party as a matter of law. Upon the conclusion of oral arguments on August 4, 2014, Judge Hernandez took the matter under advisement, saying, “It will all boil down to whether the court finds there is a matter of material fact to permit the case to continue.”

Bankston filed his own Motion for Summary Judgment for the LALB for which oral arguments were set for September 15, 2014. Meanwhile, in a continued effort to maximize his legal billings, Bankston took depositions for both Phillips and myself. For Phillips, Bankston argued he suffered “no harm” from not being able to address the roll call response, to which Phillips told Hernandez, “I was unable to defend my culture, my heritage, or to confront the two board members directly on their actions.”

Bankston also argued that, because per diem payments were not a line-item on the agenda, the LALB violated nothing in terms of denying me the opportunity to speak. Never mind that per diem payments were a line item on the financials and that those very financials containing the illegal payments were being approved at that January 8, 2013 meeting. Never mind that Bankston had provided me with an email on December 23, 2012 which said that I would be permitted to address my concerns. If one isn’t permitted to discuss such an integral component of the financial statements being approved, what can the public state regarding the financials at the meeting? Bankston also posed the argument that, because I had informed Jindal’s office that the LALB was defying his executive order and Jindal’s office had demanded that the board members refund the per diem overpayments as a result, my goal had been accomplished notwithstanding the fact I was not permitted to discuss the matter at a public meeting.

Judge Hernandez again took the matter under advisement. When no ruling was issued prior to the November 4, 2014 election, I told Phillips, who resides in Hernandez’s district, that was a very bad sign. I said if Hernandez were to issue a ruling against us before the election, the contents of his ruling may cause Phillips to implore his congregation, relatives, and friends to vote for Hernandez’s opposition. Because of that, Hernandez was delaying making his ruling until after the election. If so, he was smart because he barely survived a strong challenge by Democrat Collette Greggs (53-47).

Judge Hernandez issued his ruling granting Bankston’s Motion for Summary Judgment more than 60 days after the election. In doing so, Hernandez went from openly questioning if any issue of material fact existed on Aug. 4, 2014, to permitting defendants to continue toward a trial, in effect saying plaintiffs had no basis for proceeding with trial!

Hernandez said in his ruling, “The agenda did not include the subject of per diem payments,” and he therefore ruled that the board would be required to add the line item of per diem payments to the agenda to permit discussion! So, using Hernandez’s “logic,” a board guilty of making illegal payments must vote to add a line item entailing the illegal payments in order for the public to address them! Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to occur. Hernandez’s ruling not only makes a mockery of LA R. S. 42:14(D), but his ruling makes the court culpable in attempts to keep illegal payments by board members. Moreover, the court is made to appear even more culpable than those seeking to keep the illegal payments. His ruling sends a horrible message to members of the public seeking to hold public bodies accountable.

Hernandez went on to say that, even if a violation of the open meetings law transpired on January 8, 2013, it was remedied at the March LALB meeting. The fact that a judge has to say, “even if a violation occurred,” is a point-blank statement that an issue of material fact exists in the case and therefore he was bound by law to deny Bankston’s motion and permit the matter to continue to trial.

We wanted to appeal Hernandez’s ruling as it’s doubtful any three-judge panel of the First Circuit would have upheld his ruling. State agencies, with infinite resources of taxpayer dollars, routinely appeal rulings knowing they stand no chance of being overturned.  LouisianaVoice readers may recall an article on the CNSI trial in which Judge Kelley told the state’s attorneys “there is nothing to appeal because this matter is that clear,” regarding Bruce Greenstein having waived attorney-client privilege. Nevertheless, at a cost approximating $30,000, the state appealed Kelley’s ruling, only for it to be upheld.

My attorney informed me it would cost about $9,000 to appeal Hernandez’s ruling and even if we prevailed, there was no way to recover that $9,000. Hence, we had little choice but to walk away. That’s why Judge Caldwell’s “split the baby” ruling in the Tom Aswell’s public records request lawsuit last week felt like such a victory from my vantage point. A judge finally provided some relief to the “small guy.”


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