Justia Louisiana Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Defendant Kenneth Gleason was convicted for the first-degree murder of Donald Smart, for which he received a life sentence. After giving notice he intended to appeal, Gleason died in prison. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal, vacated the conviction, and remanded the matter to the trial court with instructions to dismiss the indictment. The State appealed, arguing the Louisiana Supreme Court should overrule precedent adopting the abatement ab initio doctrine. To this, the Supreme Court concurred, finding that “[t]o abate a conviction would be as to say there has been no crime and there is no victim. Accordingly, we abandon the doctrine and hold that when a defendant dies during the pendency of an appeal, the appeal shall be dismissed and the trial court shall enter a notation in the record that the conviction removed the defendant’s presumption of innocence but was neither affirmed nor reversed on appeal due to the defendant’s death.” View "Louisiana v. Gleason" on Justia Law

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In an issue of first impression for the Louisiana Supreme Court, was what prescriptive period, if any, was applicable to a citizen suit for injunctive relief pursuant to LSA-R.S. 30:16 suit. Justin Tureau instituted a citizen suit pursuant to LSA-R.S. 30:16, alleging that defendants drilled and operated numerous oil and gas wells on his property, or on adjacent property, as well as constructed and used unlined earthen pits. Specifically, Tureau alleged that said unlined pits were either never closed, or were not closed in conformance with environmental rules and regulations, including Statewide Order 29-B, L.A.C. 43:XIX.101, et seq, which, among other things, requires the registration and closure of existing unlined oilfield pits, as well as the remediation of various enumerated contaminants in the soil to certain minimum standards. The Supreme Court held that a LSA-R.S. 30:16 citizen suit was not subject to liberative prescription. The Court further found that, insofar as the petition alleges that defendants violated conservation laws, rules, regulations, or orders, the allegations were sufficient to defeat an exception of no cause of action. The Court therefore affirmed the appeals court ruling, which overruled defendants’ exceptions of prescription, overruled the exceptions of no cause of action, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Pilcher" on Justia Law

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Alexis Carroll Hartline and Zachary Shawn Hartline sought an interim allowance for their maintenance during the administration of the succession of Raymond John Brandt (“Decedent”). It was undisputed that the Hartlines were Decedent’s forced heirs by adoption (hereinafter, the “Forced Heirs”) and that Decedent entered into a last will and testament placing their legitime in trust. It was further undisputed that Decedent designated the Forced Heirs as principal beneficiaries of the relevant trusts and designated his surviving spouse, Jessica Fussell Brandt (the “Surviving Spouse”), as income beneficiary, thus granting her the sole right to any and all net income generated by the estate property held in trust for the duration of her life. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the Forced Heirs’ writ to review whether they were entitled to receive the requested allowance as an advance on amounts they were “eventually due,” pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 3321. The Supreme Court found the Forced Heirs could not receive an interim allowance during the administration of Decedent’s succession because they were not due, upon the termination of the administration, cash and/or property from which cash might be made available. The Court thus affirmed the court of appeal and remanded the matter to the district court for further proceedings. View "Succession of Raymond John Brandt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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Certiorari was granted in this case to resolve a split in the decisions of the Louisiana courts of appeal regarding the relationship between La. C.C.P. art. 425 and the res judicata statutes, La. R.S. 13:4231 and 13:4232. Particularly, the Supreme Court considered whether Article 425 was an independent claim preclusion provision apart from res judicata such that identity of parties was not required to preclude a subsequent suit, or whether Article 425 merely referenced the requirements of res judicata and thus a claim could not be precluded unless it was between the same parties as a prior suit. After reviewing the law and the arguments of the parties, the Louisiana Supreme Court found Article 425 functioned simply as a measure that put litigants on notice at the outset and, during the course of litigation, all causes of action arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation must be asserted. "Rather than have independent enforcement effect, Article 425 operates in tandem with and is enforced through the exception of res judicata. Because Article 425 is enforced through res judicata, all elements of res judicata–including identity of parties–must be satisfied for a second suit to be precluded." View "Carollo v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development" on Justia Law

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Adrian Perkins, the then-current mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, sought reelection to that office. On July 22, 2022, Perkins signed and filed a notice of candidacy form, as required by La. R.S. 18:461 to become a candidate in a primary election. The requirements for the notice of candidacy set forth in La. R.S. 18:463 include a requirement that the candidate certify nine items. It was undisputed Perkins signed the form certifying all required statements and that his certification as to Item 8 on the notice of candidacy form, was incorrect. Perkins has two residences–Stratmore Circle and Marshall Street– both within the city of Shreveport. Although Perkins was registered to vote at the Stratmore Circle address at the time of his qualification, it was undisputed he maintained a homestead exemption at the Marshall Street residence. The two residences were in different voting precincts. Francis Deal, a qualified elector, filed a “Petition in Objection to Candidacy” asserting Perkins’ false certification on the notice of candidacy form disqualified him from being a candidate for mayor pursuant to La. R.S. 18:492. Deal also asserted that pursuant to La. R.S. 18:101(B), Perkins was required to be registered to vote in the precinct where he claimed his homestead exemption, and his failure to do so caused him to be an unqualified elector and candidate. After considering the evidence, the district court disqualified Perkins as a candidate in the primary election for the office of the Mayor of the city of Shreveport. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, holding that only those false certifications specifically listed in La. R.S. 18:492(A)(5) through (7) constituted grounds for objecting to a candidate. Because the certification at issue in this case was not specifically listed in La. R.S. 18:492, it could not serve as a basis to disqualify the candidate here. View "Deal v. Perkins et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Brian Clarke was charged with one count of home invasion. He provided notice of his intent to present the affirmative defense of voluntary intoxication at trial. In response, the State filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit defendant from asserting an intoxication defense because, in the State’s view, home invasion was a general intent crime. The trial court granted the State’s motion. The court of appeal granted defendant’s writ application, and found that home invasion was a specific intent crime to which defendant was entitled to present voluntary intoxication as an affirmative defense. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted defendant’s application to determine whether the court of appeal correctly found that voluntary intoxication was an affirmative defense to the crime of home invasion. Based on the clear language of the statute that defines the crime of home invasion, La.R.S. 14:62.8, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeal that specific intent was a necessary element of the offense. "Therefore, whether voluntary intoxication is sufficient to preclude specific intent in this case is a question to be resolved by the trier of fact." Accordingly, the trial court erred in granting the State’s motion in limine to prohibit defendant from asserting voluntary intoxication as an affirmative defense. View "Louisiana v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ladarious Brown was arrested for several offenses stemming from a domestic incident, but he was ultimately charged with two crimes: illegal use of weapons; and aggravated flight from an officer. A jury found defendant guilty as charged. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted defendant’s application to determine whether the court of appeal correctly applied Louisiana v. Mayeux, 498 So.2d 701 (La. 1986) in finding that defendant’s conviction for attempted aggravated flight from an officer was a nullity and therefore jeopardy had not attached. The Supreme Court found that it previously erred in its double jeopardy analysis in Mayeux, and the court of appeal erred here in deciding whether jeopardy had attached. Nevertheless, the court of appeal correctly vacated the conviction for attempted aggravated flight from an officer as a non-crime that was not responsive to the charge of aggravated flight from an officer. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal’s decision insofar as it found jeopardy had not attached, but otherwise affirmed the decision vacating the conviction for attempted aggravated flight from an officer. View "Louisiana v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether a stamped signature on an uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage rejection form, affixed by the administrative assistant of the corporate insured’s owner and president, complied with the statutory requirement that the UM form be signed by the named insured or his legal representative. Because the stamped signature was affixed on behalf of the legal representative and not by the legal representative himself, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeal that the lack of prior written authorization to the administrative assistant rendered the UM form invalid. View "Havard v. JeanLouis, et al." on Justia Law

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Lia Kazan (“Lia”) visited an Alexandria, Louisiana motel to meet some friends. During the course of her visit, she went went to the motel parking lot to retrieve something from her vehicle. Anthony Murray, another motel guest, exited his room and approached the vehicle with Lia inside. Audio from the camera footage recorded Lia screaming “stop,” “no,” and calling for help accompanied by repeated honking of the vehicle’s horn. Murray then started the ignition and, with Lia in the passenger seat, reversed out of the parking lot onto the service road. The vehicle was later found submerged in Lake Dubuisson – the bodies of Murray and Lia were recovered in the water. Lia’s death was classified as a homicidal drowning. Ali Kazan and Ebony Medlin filed suit, individually, and on behalf of their daughter, Lia (collectively “Plaintiffs”) against several parties, including the motel’s owner, Vitthal, LLC, and its insurer, Great Lakes Insurance Company SE (“Great Lakes”), seeking damages for Lia’s kidnapping and death. In response, Great Lakes filed a petition for declaratory judgment averring it had no obligation under the operable commercial general liability policy (“the CGL Policy”) to defend or indemnify the other defendants. Great Lakes moved for summary judgment on its petition arguing the CGL Policy contained an exclusion – specifically defining “assault,” “battery,” and “physical altercation” – which barred coverage for Lia’s kidnapping and death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether an insurance policy, by its own terms, excluded coverage for damages arising from a kidnapping resulting in death. The Court found the clear and unambiguous language of the relevant policy exclusion barred coverage. View "Kazan et al. v. Red Lion Hotels Corporation, et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a 2016 road rage incident that led to the shooting death of Joseph McKnight. A grand jury indicted the defendant Ronald Gasser for second degree murder. The case proceeded to a trial before a twelve-person jury in January, 2018. The jury was presented with a verdict sheet listing the crime of second degree murder and three responsive verdicts: guilty of manslaughter, guilty of negligent homicide and not guilty. By a vote of ten to two, the jury convicted defendant of the lesser included offense of manslaughter and defendant was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment at hard labor. While defendant's appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court rendered its opinion in Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S.Ct. 1390 (2020), holding that non-unanimous jury verdicts in state felony cases were unconstitutional. The Louisiana Supreme Court then granted defendant’s writ application and remanded the case to the Court of Appeal for patent review based on Ramos. Thereafter, and in accordance with Ramos, the Fifth Circuit found that defendant’s non-unanimous verdict entitled him to a new trial, vacated defendant’s conviction and sentence, and remanded the case to the trial court. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to review when a non-unanimous jury finds a defendant guilty of a lesser, statutorily responsive verdict to a charged offense, valid at the time of its rendering, if the conviction was later set aside as unconstitutional, did double jeopardy preclude the State from retrying the defendant on the originally charged offense? The lower courts found that it did, and the Supreme Court agreed: double jeopardy barred the reinstatement and retrial of a defendant on a higher charge when he was lawfully convicted of a lesser included offense, even though the conviction was later vacated. The Court further agreed with the lower courts that, in this case, defendant’s conviction of a lesser included offense operated as an implied acquittal of the higher charge. View "Louisiana v. Gasser" on Justia Law