So, Jeff Landry has made it official: he is an announced candidate for governor in 2023. It was the worst-kept secret in the state and yesterday’s formal announcement just made it official.

And while the gubernatorial race is certain to dominate the news cycle for Louisiana media in the coming months, it’s important to remember that his candidacy will leave a vacancy for what is arguably the second-most-important state office: attorney general.

Enter Liz Murrill.

Landry, as attorney general, had a standing rule that any employee of the AG’s office who run for political office must resign or take unpaid leave.

For Murrill, Landry made an exception a year ago and she filed paperwork to run for attorney general provided her boss didn’t run for reelection.

Murrill is a holdover from the BOBBY JINDAL ADMINISTRATION, working as his Deputy Executive Counsel for 2½ years before being elevated to Executive Counsel. When Christ Nichols was named as Jindal’s commissioner of administration, she brought Murrill over as her executive counsel.

It was in that position that she became embroiled in debate with legislators in 2014 over Jindal’s plan to radically change Office of Group Benefits (OGB) health coverage for state employees and retirees – after Jindal had reduced OGB’s $600 million operating surplus to only a memory.

OGB members testified before the House Appropriations Committee that dramatic increases in co-pays in their health care plans could cause their health benefits to exceed their monthly state pensions.

Murrill, took issue with a legal opinion from Landry’s predecessor, Bubby Caldwell, which insisted that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) mandated public comment and legislative review before policy changes could be implemented. She insisted that public comment and legislative review were not required.

Murrill, who serves as Landry’s solicitor general, last January ARGUED to the US Supreme Court in opposition to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates – remotely, because at the time she had tested positive for COVID.

Way back in 2009, while in the employ of Jindal, she became involved in a RUNNING DISPUTE with LouisianaVoice over the release of public records related to the LSU Board of Supervisors’ decision to cut health care spending and to privatize state hospitals. Attorney Shelby McKenzie, retained by LSU, said he was advised by Murrill had advised him that the board should invoke the so-called “deliberative process” in order to deny release of the records.

Jindal consistently hid behind the deliberative process as a method to shield the operations of the governor’s office from public scrutiny.

But it’s interesting to note that McKenzie at the time was an attorney with the Baton Rouge firm of Taylor Porter. Another member, a partner, in fact, was John P. Murrill, who served on the firm’s Executive Committee.

He is married to Liz Murrill.

Taylor Porter has dozens of contracts with the State of Louisiana totaling millions of dollars. Contracts with law firms are traditionally issued by the attorney general’s office with the concurrence of the agency to be represented.

Ethically, there is no violation of the AG’s office issuing contracts to the firm. State law prohibits any person holding at least a 25 percent ownership in an entity from doing business with an agency that employs an immediate family member of the vendor. John Murrill does not hole a 25 percent stake in Taylor Porter but perceptions being what they are, the relationship does not have a good look.

If she is elected, she would take a significant PAY CUT. She currently pulls down $223,366 per year, which is about $72,100 more than her boss’s current $151,275 salary. Both make more than the $130,000 Gov. John Bel Edwards makes.

But if she and Landry are both elected to the respective offices they seek, we’re going to have a Republican legislature, a Republican governor, and a Republican attorney general.

Imagine the carnage that combination, working in tandem, could inflict on Louisiana and the rights of its citizenry.

Don’t forget our fundraiser going on right now. I’m working on a story in which I am making public records requests from officials in every one of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. One parish has already responded that it will cost at least $1,000 to obtain the information.

That’s what we do here at LouisianaVoice. It doesn’t always cost so much, but I’ve never made a request of every parish before.

Bottom line: please help us carry on our mission here. There are people and events out there that affect our every day lives and we try to keep you abreast of developments.

But here’s the deal: If we are forced to fold our tent and give up our pursuit of truth, the bad guys win. We’re already facing the very real threat of people in power stripping away voting rights. The threat of having our libraries closed down is equally real. And it’s not being parinoid to say history may no longer be taught in our schools or that women will have no control over their bodies. The struggle for civil rights could revert back to the 1950s. Look at what’s happening in Florida and Texas. What the governors of those states have done and are doing makes Bobby Jindal look like a political moderate.

To expose such efforts is the reason LouisianaVoice exists. Please click on the yellow DONATE button in the column to the right of this post and give what you can by credit card. Or send your check to: Tom Aswell, P.O. Box 922, Denham Springs, Louisiana 70727.

I deeply appreciate your support.

As if Louisiana State Police (LSP) has not experienced enough problems in recent years, the Louisiana Supreme Court has affirmed a judgment of more than $850,000 against the agency over its imposition of a schedule of fines against a New Orleans towing company that was ultimately deemed to be unconstitutional.

In April of this year, a three-judge panel of the FIRST CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEAL unanimously overturned a dismissal of the initial lawsuit by the 19th Judicial District Court and LSP took its case to the state supreme court, which denied writs, thus making the award final.

A suit was brought by Mid-City Automotive of New Orleans in 2016 after state police issued three citations to the company for violations of a law which regulated the towing of vehicles from private property.

Mid-City, which operates a towing company in New Orleans, which conducts nonconsensual tows of vehicles from private property, was first assessed fines on March 19 and September 1, 2015 in the amounts of $250 and $300, respectively. Following a third citation on September 22, 2015, Mid-City’s storage inspection license was suspended for 30 days under the statute.

Mid-City filed suit, alleging that certain provisions of the statute were invalid. Following a bench trial in Baton Rouge, the court dismissed Mid-City’s petition with prejudice, meaning the suit could not be revived.

Mid-City appealed and won, prompting LSP’s application for writs to the Supreme Court.

The statute stipulated that property, parking areas, and spaces must be clearly marked to warn motorists that unauthorized vehicles may be towed. Mid-City was cited for towing vehicles from parking areas which were not properly marked.

Mid-City argued in its petition that the schedule of fines contained in the statute was invalid because the legislature’s delegation of authority to LSP to adopt and levy fines was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to an administrative agency and therefore exceeded the scope of the authority granted to LSP.

LSP was ordered to pay $851,185.83 to Mid-City and also ordered to pay appeal costs of $4,656.

It was the latest in a string of legal setbacks for the embattled agency that has been the subject of dozens of stories about miscreant state troopers, mismanagement, the death of one black motorist and the beatings of other black motorists, cover-ups, a state police academy cheating scandal, and high turnover in recent years at its leadership level.

Here’s a novel idea that’s certain not to catch on:

Before you become a candidate for a judgeship at any level – municipal, district appellate, federal, or a state or US Supreme Court – whether appointive or elective, you must renounce all affiliation with any political party and you must never so much as whisper any partisan political utterance whatsoever.

And when any such judgeship to which you aspire is elective (as all but federal judgeships in Louisiana are), you are forbidden from accepting political contributions from any attorney, paralegal or private investigator or any of their family members.

Finally, if you so much as think you might want to be a judge one day, you must refrain from making political contributions yourself or from any member of your immediate family to any political candidate.

All that flies in the face of tradition and amounts to a slap in the face of good old fashion politics but in the end, aren’t judges, by definition, supposed to be impartial to a fault? To carry the label of a political party or to express personal leanings in an election ad seems to debase the very image of the position, lowering the title holder to little more than just another political hack.

So, why do I feel this way? And am I alone in this? It’s really only common sense when you think about it. Let’s say, for example, that you are a plaintiff or defendant in some criminal or civil case. The presiding judge has received generous campaign contributions from your opposing counsel while your attorney committed the unpardonable sin of supporting the judge’s opponent in the last election.

Think you’re going to get a fair deal? Perhaps, but if things don’t go your way, you will never be able to shake that feeling that you got screwed by politics.

Maybe your courtroom opponent was the CAMPAIGN MANAGER for the judge’s election campaign. How impartial is that? Perhaps a better question would be how cozy is that?

How about the case of former 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal Judge HENRY BROWN? His case had nothing to do with campaign contributions or the like, but it did illustrate how easily judges can lose sight of their ability to rule impartially and fairly.

Or say you have what you feel is a solid case of excessive force by the local sheriff on your kid. Or maybe the sheriff barged into your house by mistake on one of those no-knock warrants and in the ensuing confusion, shot and killed your prize show-dog. But when you sue the sheriff – if you can even get past the qualified immunity obstacle he’s sure to throw in your path – you find that the presiding judge, of all people, contributed to the sheriff’s last election campaign. What do you think your odds are now?

Take, for instance, a Republican judge on one of the state’s five Courts of Appeal. On her web page, she unabashedly describes herself as “a lifelong conservative,” which might be slightly off-putting to a dedicated liberal who, understandably, might desire a more open-minded judge hearing his case.

Not only that, but this judge has contributed generously through the years to various political candidates, including $2,000 she once dropped on Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Another Republican appeal court judge hedged his bets somewhat back in 2003 when he contributed $3100 to Democrat Kathleen Blanco but was less generous in giving only $600 to Republican Bobby Jindal. But he scattered smaller contributions to a host of other political candidates.

And then there’s Louisiana Attorney General and probable 2023 gubernatorial candidate Jeff Landry, who greased the campaigns of judges, political action committees, gubernatorial and legislative candidates.

There are certain NORMS that judicial candidates are expected to observe. Even when subject to the rigors of a public election, a judge must assume a role separate from that of a run-of-the-mill office holder. Rather than making the popular decision based upon the expressed views or preferences of the electorate, a judge makes decisions based upon the law and the facts of every case. Period. Therefore, it is critical that judges and judicial candidates, to the greatest extent possible, be free from political influence and the prevailing mood of the moment.

Both party affiliation and contributions to political parties are allowed but not to individual candidates, according to JUDICIAL CANONS, which also caution that judicial candidates should not “make statements which cast doubt on the judge’s capacity to decide impartiality any issue that may come before a judge.” (emphasis added)

Despite the existence of those canons and of disciplinary procedures theorhetically in place, judges continue to fly below the radar and are probably the public officials held least accountable, recent scrutiny of the US Supreme Court notwithstanding.

Which brings us to Louisiana Supreme Court Justice JEFF HUGHES who, in his campaign for the state’s high court was so frank as to trumpet his pro-gun, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and pro-death penalty positions while boasting in his TV ads, “President Obama would never appoint Jeff Hughes to the Louisiana Supreme Court.” (John Kennedy is probably wishing he’d said something like that in one of his folksy TV spots. I’s so him.)

Well, of course not, silly man. First of all, the position is elective, not appointive. Second, Obama doesn’t appoint any judges at the state level. You see, he’s federal. We’re state. You should’ve learned that in high school civics.

And pity the poor pro-choice gay shooting victim who might suffer the fate of having Hughes write the opinion on his appeal.

My apologies, readers, but I just don’t have the imagination of the former guy when it comes to grifting.

I come around only twice a year with hat in hand asking for your financial support of this blog and the research it does to bring you inside stories of Louisiana politics and politicians. The former guy shows up in my email inbox no fewer than 20-25 times each day asking for money – and he never even bothers to inform me that once I fall for his line and contribute, he then extracts an identical amount not just that once, but weekly.

I don’t do that.

He offers autographed golf balls, caps, gold membership cards to his special club, a chance to meet him at some event, an opportunity to “look at” his new plane, certificates, and various other “benefits” for contributing. I can’t complete with that, though I have offered copies of my books, which Donnie Jr. is also hawking on some of those emails (he says his book is breaking all records, though he neglects to say what records those are).

I don’t do that.

And he asks his donors to help him save America.

I don’t do that, either.

But I do ask that you help me continue my work exposing the corrupt underbelly of Louisiana politics.

So, if you feel moved to help LouisianaVoice do its job as opposed to helping TFG do his job of “saving America from the libtards,” I invite you to click on the yellow DONATE button in the column to the right of this post. That will allow you to pay by credit card. You don’t need a PayPal account to do this; your credit card will deposit your contribution into LouisianaVoice’s PayPal account. And better yet, it will be only a ONE-TIME payment as opposed to those repetitive payments to TFG.

If you don’t want to pay by credit card, you may mail a check to Tom Aswell, P.O. Box 922, Denham Springs, Louisiana 70727.

As always, your continued support is both vital and appreciated.

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