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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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If you will take the time to read the story below the Notable Quotables post, you will be able to see for yourself why our fight with the Division of Administration (DOA) and Bobby Jindal over access to public records is far from over after three separate lawsuits (one against the Department of Education and the other two against DOA).

As the reader can see, DOA has no intentions of timely compliance with our requests—or ever, if they can get away with it. Winning one case against them outright and taking three of four in the most recent courtroom battle will only embolden Kristy Nichols to dig in her heels and continue to withhold records indefinitely.

That’s why your contributions to LouisianaVoice are so important. Unfortunately, justice is not only not free, but downright unaffordable for the average person. One can file pro se but unless he or she is familiar with legal terms and tactics, that is a foolhardy endeavor.

Please do whatever you can to help us defray the growing costs of litigation in these efforts to see to it that records to which you have every right are provided completely and on a timely basis.

You may click on the Donate Button with Credit Cards (not here, but to the right) to pay by credit card, or you mail your checks or money orders to:

Capitol News Service/LouisianaVoice

P.O. Box 922

Denham Springs, LA. 70727-0922

 

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It’s curious how a judge can look directly at a clear violation of a law, yet somehow concoct a ruling favorable to the violator and completely disregard the rights of more than 4 million citizens of Louisiana.

That, in our humble (but admittedly biased) opinion was what occurred in the Baton Rouge courtroom of 19th Judicial District Judge Mike Caldwell on Monday.

At the risk of sounding like Bobby Jindal in calling a ruling that went against him “wrong-headed,” we will at least attempt to lay out the details of the case along with the reasons for Caldwell’s ruling so you may decide for yourself if justice was done.

Our lawsuit against the Division of Administration (DOA) and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols was based on four separate public records requests with which DOA took its sweet time in complying—and, in the case of the most egregious violation, did not comply for three full months and then only after we filed our lawsuit.

Caldwell did throw us a bone which, to our satisfaction, had a little meat on it. He held in our favor on one of the four requests, assessed $800 in fines plus court costs and (best of all) held Nichols personally liable.

So, unless there is an appeal, Nichols, and not the state, will be required to write a personal check and the money will not come out of the taxpayers’ pockets (of course the salary of DOA’s staff attorney is picked up by John Q. Public).

But back to the one that sticks in our craw and leaves us perplexed and angry at the manner in which Caldwell bent over backwards to let the state off the hook for the most flagrant violation, one that had he ruled differently, could have cost Nichols thousands more in fines.

In that case, we submitted a rather detailed request for public records on Oct. 14, 2014 relative to the state’s $500 million contract with a California outfit called MedImpact, which is contracted to administer the Office of Group Benefits’ pharmaceutical program.

At the same time, we had a legislator to make a nearly identical though somewhat less detailed request through the House Legislative Services Office (HLSO).

HLSO received an email at 3:15 p.m. on Oct 23 to the effect its records were already downloaded to a CD and would be delivered by DOA. Here is the content of that email:

“You requested the MedImpact contract, Notice of Intent to Contract, ratings, and recommendations for awarding the contract. Please note the contract contains some proprietary and/or confidential information that has been redacted under La. R.S. 44:3.1. We have scanned these records. They are too large to email, so I can bring a CD over. I heard you’re out of the office. Do you want me to drop it off for you or wait until you get back?”

The records were actually delivered to the House offices on Oct. 24, 2014.

For our part, we found it necessary to send a second request on Oct. 19 because DOA had failed to respond to our initial request as required by law. Here is that section of the law, courtesy of the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR):

  • “If not in “active use” when requested, the record must be “immediately presented.” The custodian is required to delete the confidential portion of a record and make the remainder available. If it is unreasonably burdensome or expensive for the custodian to separate the public portion of the record from the confidential portion, the custodian must provide a written statement explaining why. If the record is in “active use,” the agency must “promptly certify this in writing” and set a day and an hour within three working days from receipt of the request when the record will be available.” http://www.parlouisiana.com/citizensrightscard.cfm#exempted

 

Remember that part about “unreasonably burdensome and the requirement for a written statement from the custodian of the record. We will be referring back to that part because Judge Caldwell took it upon himself to determine the unreasonableness of our request even though the state never made that argument. Thus, Judge Caldwell made the state’s argument for them.

When I made my second request, I received a response on Oct. 21 estimating the records would be available “on or before October 31, 2014.” Here is a copy of that email:

  • From: Tameika Richard
  • Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 12:21 PM To: ‘azspeak@cox.net’
  • Subject: PRR re: Pharmacy Benefit Management RFP

“Mr. Aswell,

Pursuant to your public records request, we are still searching for records and/or reviewing them for exemptions and privileges. Once finished with the review process, all non-exempt records will be made available to you. It is estimated the records will be available on or before October 31, 2014.

Public Records Requests

Division of Administration

State of Louisiana

Email: doapublicrecords@la.gov

 

We still had not received the records by the time we filed our lawsuit on Jan. 16, 2015, but almost miraculously, they were delivered to our attorney’s office on Jan. 23, precisely one week after the lawsuit was filed.

So, taking DOA’s promised delivery date of Oct. 31, 2014, and projecting it out to Jan. 23, 2015, discounting about 10 holidays and several weekends (which don’t count), DOA still should have been looking at penalties of upwards of $5,000 on just that one request.

But, Caldwell mused, our request was “broad,” making it difficult for DOA to comply in a timely manner. “I’ve had experience in other cases involving voluminous requests for information where much redaction had to be done (nothing was redacted from the records we received), so I know how difficult it can be for the state to drop everything and meet your demand,” he volunteered. Accordingly, he disallowed our request for damages—again, despite the state’s never having put forward the burdensome argument. But then, why should they when an obliging judge will do it for them?

Moreover, the $800 fine he did assess against Nichols was far less than it should have been for that one violation. The records in that case (travel records for OGB personnel) were first made on October 4, 2014, and we were told the records did not exist. We re-submitted our request in December, but the records were not made available until Feb. 18, 2015.

That fine should have been in excess of $3,000, not $800.

There are several conclusion we can draw from this:

  • Judge Caldwell completely missed—or ignored—the part where DOA promised the records “on or before October 31, 2014;”
  • His honor overrated the difficulty in producing records that already existed and were in the possession of DOA;
  • The judge has little concern for the public’s right to know what its government does, nor he have any sympathy for those who work to report those actions;
  • He simply could not bring himself to impose such a heavy fine against Nichols personally despite the clear intent of the law—so he arbitrarily set a low fine for the one request and simply denied the others.

At this point, we don’t know if the state will appeal Caldwell’s judgment. We can’t imagine Nichols rolling over so easily and writing a check for $800, plus costs and attorney fees. After all, the attorneys work for the state, not her, so what does she have to lose with an appeal?

As for us, we still must meet with our attorneys to decide how to proceed with a partial victory coupled with a stinging loss.

But the question here is just what will it take to get the courts to pay attention to what the state is doing and use the power of the bench to force compliance with the law? How long will the courts simply look the other way to the detriment of the citizenry’s right to know?

We’re told that Judge Caldwell is a good judge and a fair man but we certainly don’t feel as though we received fair treatment before him.

No, we didn’t go to law school and we don’t hold a law license. But we can read and the law is quite clear on the demands placed on governmental agencies to comply with public records laws. There is no ambiguity on that point.

And one other thing: If Kristy Nichols thinks we’re going to fold our tent and skulk away, she’s in for a rude awakening. We’re not going anywhere. There will be other requests and in cases of non-compliance, there will be more litigation.

That’s a solemn promise.

 

 

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Two months ago, Louisiana Voice reported on Livingston Parish DA Scott Perrilloux’s determination to prosecute Corey delaHoussaye.  Perrilloux, working with the State Inspector General’s Office (IG), has charged delaHoussaye, an FBI informant responsible for FEMA denying $59 million to contractors for Livingston Parish’s hurricane Gustav cleanup due to rampant fraud, with falsifying public records.  Specifically, Perrilloux and the IG allege delaHoussaye submitted paperwork for some time periods for which he claimed to be working but which the IG asserts he was at times golfing, visiting his doctor, working out, and tending to other personal matters.

Perrilloux failed to procure an indictment of delaHoussaye in December of 2013, but he nevertheless proceeded forward with a bill of information.  Meanwhile, delaHoussaye filed federal and state civil suits against the parish as a result of incoming Parish President Layton Ricks stopping payment on a $379,000 check to delaHoussaye for his final invoice.

The civil matter ended Friday when delaHoussaye agreed to accept $325,000 as payment for his final invoice and to dismiss both his federal and state civil actions against the parish.

For now, the state criminal trial continues even though Judge Brenda Ricks ruled on February 23, 2015 that insufficient evidence exists to proceed with a trial.  Mere minutes after Ricks’ ruling, Perrilloux angrily stated to reporters that he would appeal Ricks’ ruling, and he added, “Just because they wear a black robe doesn’t mean they know everything.”  True to his word, Perrilloux recently filed an appeal with the First Circuit Court of Appeal seeking to overturn Ricks’ ruling and proceed with the criminal trial.

On Monday, April 20, 2015, delaHoussaye’s attorney, John McLindon, argued before Judge Ricks a motion to suppress and motion to quash the evidence gathered by the IG on multiple fronts.  Judge Ricks’ ruling, expected sometime this week, may go a long way on clarifying just what authority and powers the IG has.

First, McLindon asserts that the IG is entitled to access the records only of a “covered agency.”  Thus, IG access is limited to only executive branches of state government, of which Livingston Parish, with whom delaHoussaye executed his contract, clearly is not.  In an obvious admission that Livingston Parish is not a covered agency, Greg Murphy, Assistant District Attorney, placed Ben Plaia, an attorney for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), on the witness stand.  Murphy utilized Plaia’s testimony to buttress Murphy’s argument that, because GOHSEP controls access to federal emergency funding and because those funds flow through it to the parish, delaHoussaye’s records were fair game by virtue of GOHSEP’s standing as a covered agency.  Essentially, Murphy argued that, by virtue of funds flowing through GOHSEP, its own presumed covered agency status is imputed unto Livingston Parish.

McLindon attacked that assertion during cross examination by asking Plaia a series of questions.  When asked if GOHSEP, delaHoussaye, or C-Del (delaHoussaye’s company) were covered agencies, Plaia responded, “I don’t know.”  Obviously, if GOHSEP isn’t a covered agency, nothing can be imputed, and Plaia would not testify that GOSHEP is a covered agency.    When asked if delaHoussaye or C-Del were contractors of a covered agency, Plaia again responded, “I don’t know.”  Similarly, when asked if delaHoussaye or C-Del were subcontractors, grantees, or sub-grantees of a covered agency, Plaia again responded, “I don’t know.”  When asked if GOHSEP had any contractors or subcontractors, Plaia indicated that it did not.  When asked if it would be proper for GOHSEP to pay delaHoussaye or C-Del directly if invoices seeking payment were submitted directly to GOHSEP, Plaia responded, “No.  In fact, I believe it would be improper for us to do so.”

Based on Plaia’s testimony, not only was there no foundation to establish that GOHSEP could impute any covered status unto Livingston Parish, but there was no foundation for establishing that GOHSEP is even a covered agency with anything to impute.  Nevertheless, taking no chances, McLindon continued to attack the IG’s powers and authority even under the assumption that somehow covered status were deemed to exist and be imputable to Livingston Parish.

In doing so, McLindon is not the first attorney to fire a shot across the bow at the IG’s investigative powers and techniques.  In December of 2013, during the trial of Murphy Painter, former Commissioner of the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC), both Mike Fawer and Al Robert, Jr., Painter’s defense attorneys, sharply criticized the IG in terms of overreach regarding search warrants and sloppy investigative techniques.  Robert asserted to Federal Judge James Brady that the IG’s execution of the search warrant entailing Painter was both sloppy and that the agency acted well beyond the authority the judge granted.  In perhaps the most stunning quote of the entire trial, Robert, outside the presence of the jury, stated to Judge Brady, “Your Honor, this is not the FBI!  This is the OIG!  These people do not know what they’re doing!”

Similarly, when Fawer had IG investigator Shane Evans on the witness stand, he asked him to confirm his notes documenting that ATC officer Brant Thompson indicated Painter was “out of control, manic-depressive, and selectively enforcing alcohol statutes.” Evans confirmed that Thompson made those statements to him.  Fawer then asked Evans what investigative procedures he used to substantiate Thompson’s allegations against Painter.  Evans stated that he’d performed no investigative procedures at all and instead that he “merely wrote down what Thompson said.”  Fawer then inquired, “And based on your notations, my client (Painter) was summoned to the Governor’s Office later that evening, and he was fired by the Governor, wasn’t he?”  Evans responded that it was his understanding that Painter had resigned, to which Fawer responded, “Resigned, fired, whatever the case.  The bottom line is that very evening my client was out of a job all based on a few notes you wrote down with no attempt whatsoever to substantiate what you wrote, correct?”  Evans, who has left the IG and now serves as an investigator for the EBRP Coroner’s Office, didn’t challenge Fawer’s assertion.

McLindon takes Fawer and Robert’s assertions a step further and indicates his firm belief that the IG has no search warrant authority at all.  He argues that the Louisiana Legislature specifically granted the IG subpoena power but was silent on search warrant authority.  He said that fact, combined with the fact that, for criminal matters, “statutes are to be given a narrow interpretation and any ambiguity resolved in favor of the accused,” (the Doctrine of Lenity) means that the IG has no search warrant authority.  McLindon said that, prior to this case, nobody has ever challenged the IG on its search warrant authority, but he is formally doing so in this case and seeks for Ricks to make a formal ruling on whether they have such authority.  Murphy countered that Ricks must believe the IG has the authority to execute search warrants since she signed one dated June 21, 2011.  He then provided a copy to Judge Ricks, to which she responded, “You went way back to find that one, didn’t you?”

Next, even if covered status is somehow deemed to exist for Livingston Parish and search warrant authority is deemed by the court to be vested unto the IG, McLindon next argued that the IG failed to conform to the statutory requirement regarding an added step for subpoenas sought by the IG.  Specifically, McLindon argued the statute says that the judge shall issue a written decision within 72 hours of the application for the subpoena.  McLindon indicated that the IG and prosecutor have taken the position that the Motion for the Search Warrant is the decision, but McLindon counters that the motion is merely the application.  Furthermore, he stressed heavily that the Legislature could have granted unfettered subpoena power to the IG in the same manner as that which exists for the Attorney General, but it intentionally meant to provide an added layer of review in the case of the IG.  McLindon argued that the IG has been wrong to merely ignore that added layer as it has historically done.  Again, McLindon argued nobody has challenged the IG on this requirement, but he’s doing so in this case.

McLindon concluded his arguments by indicating that failure to suppress the evidence obtained by the IG for the reasons he argues “gives agencies carte blanche to engage in fishing expeditions into the private, sensitive information of citizens.”

In yet another added challenge to IG authority on obtaining its evidence, McLindon cited a case, State v. Skinner, in which the Louisiana Supreme Court made clear the need for a warrant, and not a mere subpoena, to obtain an individual’s medical records.  McLindon thus seeks for delaHoussaye’s medical records indicating he was visiting a physician during a timeframe that the IG alleges he reported working to also be suppressed.  He seeks such suppression based upon the IG obtaining the records via subpoena rather than a warrant.

Readers may read McLindon’s full post-trial memo outlining his arguments.

Louisiana Voice has interviewed several attorneys about the wisdom of the Louisiana Legislature granting the IG law enforcement authority even with the provision of no arrest powers, silence on search warrant authority, and an added hurdle for subpoenas which McLindon asserts has historically been simply ignored by the IG.  The consensus among the attorneys with whom Louisiana Voice has interviewed on the subject is that the Legislature made a mistake and that the IG is often abusing its power and, in at least some instances, acting in a reckless manner.  Perhaps Judge Ricks’ ruling later this week will provide guidance as to whether she may be inclined to agree and, more specifically, to concur with arguments McLindon has advanced in this case.

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