Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In connection with its operation of a land-based casino in New Orleans, Jazz Casino Company, L.L.C. (Jazz) entered into contracts with various hotels for rooms made available to casino patrons on a complimentary or discounted basis. Jazz was required to pay for a specific number of rooms for the duration of the contract even if the rooms were not used by Jazz patrons. As a result of these hotel room rentals, hotel occupancy taxes were remitted to the Louisiana Department of Revenue (Department). The taxes consisted of state general sales taxes and sales tax collected on behalf of the following three entities: Louisiana Tourism Promotion District, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, and the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority. In August 2004, Jazz filed three claims for refund with the Department, alleging that Jazz overpaid hotel occupancy taxes for various hotel room rentals from October 1999, and June 2004. Following the denial of its claims by the Department, Jazz filed suit with the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals, seeking a determination of overpaid taxes in accordance with La. R.S. 47:1621. Finding that these statutory duties were ministerial, the district court issued a writ of mandamus to the tax collector to compel payment of the tax refund judgment. The court of appeal reversed and recalled the writ due to the lack of evidence needed to obtain a writ of mandamus. Based on the ministerial nature of the constitutional and statutory duties owed by the tax collector in connection with the taxpayer’s refund judgment, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the appellate court, and reinstated the district court’s judgment. View "Jazz Casino Co, LLC v. Bridges" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asked the Louisiana Supreme Court: “What is the meaning of ‘good faith’ as that term is used in the Louisiana Environmental Quality Act, Louisiana Revised Statutes 30:2027?” Eric Borcik was employed by Crosby Tugs, L.L.C. (Crosby) as a deckhand. In July 2010, he was transferred to the M/V NELDA FAYE. Borcik claims that the lead captain of the NELDA FAYE ordered him to dump waste oil into navigable waters and otherwise violate environmental laws over a period of three years. He further claims that he followed these orders. In May 2013, Borcik emailed Crosby’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). His email communicated that he had “concerns” that he stated “have all fallen on deaf ears” and expressed “fear [of] some form of retaliation.” He later met with the CAO in person. Borcik was transferred to another boat and later fired. Borcik contends he was fired in retaliation for his complaints; Crosby contends that Borcik was fired for insubordination. Borcik sued Crosby in October 2013, alleging retaliatory termination in violation of Louisiana Environmental Quality Act (“LEQA”), specifically claiming that Crosby violated the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Act. The Supreme Court answered the certified question: the term “good faith,” as used in R.S. 30:2027, means an employee is acting with an honest belief that a violation of an environmental law, rule, or regulation occurred. View "Borcik v. Crosby Tugs, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted review of this matter to determine whether the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“LSPCA”) was subject to the Louisiana Public Records Law. More specifically, the issue was whether the LSPCA, by virtue of its Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (“CEA”) with the City of New Orleans to provide animal control services as mandated by the New Orleans Municipal Code, was an instrumentality of a municipal corporation such that it must comply with La. R.S. 44:1 et seq. The Court affirmed the court of appeal, and found that the LSPCA, through its function of providing animal control services for the City of New Orleans, was an instrumentality of the City of New Orleans and had to comply with the Public Records Law. View "New Orleans Bulldog Society v. Louisiana Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Todd Huval and Chad Boyer were former Louisiana State Troopers employed by the State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of State Police. In 2007, they were terminated based on an investigation which exposed alleged violations of employment policy and state law. Both were accused of providing confidential information to a third party. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over tort claims stemming from the disciplinary action over which the State Police Commission presided. The lower courts concluded that subject matter jurisdiction was proper in district court. The Supreme Court agreed. View "Huval v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana legislature in 2006 passed Act 853 and Act 567, which amended the laws governing compensation for levee servitude appropriations with a particular focus on appropriations for use in hurricane protection projects. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this matter for three purposes: (1) to interpret specific provisions of the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42, and La. R.S. 38:281(3) and (4); (2) to determine the amount of compensation that was due a property owner whose property was appropriated by a levee district pursuant to a permanent levee servitude for use in a hurricane protection project; and (3) to determine whether La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) or La. R.S. 13:5111 governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee servitude appropriation dispute. The Court held the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42 and 38:281(3) and (4) reduced, rather than eliminated, the measure of damages to be paid to a property owner for the taking of, or loss or damage to, property rights for the construction, enlargement, improvement, or modification of hurricane protection projects from “full extent of the loss” to the more restrictive “just compensation” measure required by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was the fair market value of the property at the time of the appropriation, based on the current use of the property, before the proposed appropriated use, and without allowing for any change in value caused by levee construction. Furthermore, the Court held La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee appropriation dispute. View "South Lafourche Levee Dist. v. Jarreau" on Justia Law

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A workers’ compensation claimant sought review of a judgment from the Office of Workers’ Compensation affirming the decision of the Medical Director denying his physician’s request for trial of a spinal cord stimulator. The court of appeal affirmed the ruling of the Office of Workers’ Compensation that the claimant had failed to show the Medical Director’s decision was not in accordance with the Medical Treatment Guidelines. Because the Supreme Court found the Medical Director and the Office of Workers’ Compensation misinterpreted the language of Louisiana Administrative Code, and thus misapplied the Medical Treatment Guidelines on neurostimulation to the claimant’s case, it reversed the lower court’s ruling and found the Office of Workers’ Compensation erred in affirming the decision of the Medical Director. View "Gulley v. Hope Youth Ranch" on Justia Law

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This action arose out of the construction of a facility by United Plant Services (UPS), in Trout, to which Entergy Louisiana, LLC (Entergy) provided electric services. Entergy’s competitor, Concordia Electric Cooperative, Inc., filed a complaint with the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) asserting that Entergy’s service to the UPS facility violated La.R.S. 45:123 and LPSC General Order No. R-28269, collectively referred to as the 300 Foot Rule, by providing service to UPS at a point of connection Concordia presumed to be within 300 feet of its existing electrical lines. An ALJ recommended the LPSC dismiss Concordia's claims because the judge found Concordia failed to show UPS or Entergy had intentionally placed the building and meter in circumvention of the 300 Foot Rule (enabling UPS to select Entergy as opposed to Concordia as its electric service provider). Concordia appealed, and a district court reversed the LPSC order. Because the Supreme Court found the LPSC did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in reaching its decision, it reversed. View "Entergy Louisiana, LLC v. Louisiana Public Svc. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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This matter arose from a recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (“Commission”) that Judge Darryl Derbigny be publicly censured, ordered to reimburse the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judicial Expense Fund (“JEF”) $57,359.96, and ordered to reimburse and pay to the Commission $8,150.24 in hard costs. The recommendation stems from Judge Derbigny’s participation in the district court’s supplemental insurance program and charges that he accepted insurance coverage and benefits beyond those allowed by law or available to all other court employees, the premiums for which were paid from the JEF. The Supreme Court concluded the Office of Special Counsel (“OSC”) failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Derbigny’s participation in the district court’s supplemental insurance program rose to the level of sanctionable misconduct under either the Code of Judicial Conduct or Article V, Section 25(C) of the Louisiana Constitution. However, the Court agreed with the Commission that Judge Derbigny was not entitled to the benefits of any whole life insurance policies or the Exec-U-Care program under the plain language of La. R.S. 13:691. Because Judge Derbigny already surrendered the cash value of the whole life policies to the JEF, the Court ordered him to reimburse the JEF $10,002.58, representing the out-of-pocket reimbursements paid to Judge Derbigny under the Exec-U-Care program. The Court declined to impose Judge Derbigny with hard costs incurred by the Commission. View "In re: Judge Darryl Derbigny" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Dana Johno filed suit against Plaquemines Parish Government (“PPG”) and numerous other defendants alleging his house was unlawfully demolished by PPG and its agents after Hurricane Katrina. The plaintiff subsequently moved to have La. R.S. 9:2800.17, which provided retroactive statutory immunity to the government and its agents for certain actions taken in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, declared unconstitutional. The District Court granted the plaintiff’s motion. Significantly, the issue of immunity was never raised or argued by PPG. Only one of the defendants, Hard Rock Construction, LLC, one of the contractors for PPG, appealed the District Court’s ruling. The Supreme Court affirmed: "When a party acquires a right to assert a cause of action prior to a change in the law, that right is a vested property right which is protected by the guarantee of due process. Thus, a cause of action, once accrued, cannot be divested by subsequent legislation." Because the plaintiff’s causes of action accrued before effective date of the statute, the statute was unconstitutional as applied in this matter. View "Johno v. Doe" on Justia Law

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Claimant Richard Borja, was employed by St. Bernard Parish Government (“St. Bernard”) as a firefighter. In March of 2004, claimant filed a disputed claim for compensation alleging that he had injured his right knee and right thumb in an accident in 2002, and he also alleged he had an occupational disease. He described his injuries on the 2004 disputed claim for compensation as a “torqued knee” and “Heart and Lung,” indirectly referencing the Fireman’s Heart and Lung Act. After the accident, the claimant began receiving maximum workers’ compensation benefits, which continued until St. Bernard terminated them one year later. In the meantime, claimant had taken disability retirement in January 2003. The disputed claim form was filed within one year of the termination of the benefits. St. Bernard ultimately admitted that claimant had sustained an injury to his right knee, but disputed any thumb injury as well as any heart and lung claims as being related to his employment, stating that it did not know about the injuries, or that alternatively, they were prescribed. While St. Bernard conceded the claimant had been receiving the maximum benefits from the date of the accident until January 2003, it also maintained that because the claimant voluntarily retired in that month, he had removed himself from the workforce and was no longer entitled to future workers’ compensation benefits. Throughout the 2004 litigation, claimant had consistently argued that his heart and lung conditions were related to his employment. The dispute eventually went to mediation, which resulted in a compromise that claimant would receive back compensation payments in two lump sums, bringing him current to 2008, and that he would receive weekly indemnity benefits which were the maximum claimant could receive at that time. By October 2008, claimant moved dismiss the 2004 litigation noting “that this matter has been settled in full.” By 2013, St. Bernard, identifying the claimant’s benefits as Supplemental Earnings Benefits (“SEBs”), gave notice that it would terminate SEBs effective August 27, 2013, on the basis that he would have received the full 520 weeks of payments. In November 2013, claimant filed another disputed claim for compensation citing “knees, heart and lung” as his injuries. Specifically, he described his 2002 injury to the knee. St. Bernard filed exceptions of prescription and res judicata. A workers’ compensation judge granted the exception of res judicata for the knee injury, and granted the exception of prescription as to the claim under the “Heart and Lung Statute.” On appeal, a majority of the court of appeal affirmed in an unpublished opinion. After its review, the Supreme Court found the lower courts erred in concluding the claimant’s request for medical benefits under the heart and lung statute had prescribed because claimant timely filed his 2013 disputed claim asserting permanent and total disability as a result of his heart and lung condition. The Court reversed the court of appeal’s judgment affirming the workers’ compensation judge’s rulings sustaining the exception of prescription and the exception of res judicata. View "Borja v. Fara St. Bernard Parish Gov't" on Justia Law