Justia Louisiana Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Mellor, et al. v. Jefferson Parish, et al.
Jefferson Parish School Board and Jefferson Parish Sheriff (collectively, “defendants”) challenged the constitutionality of a trial court judgment ordering the defendants to remit into the trial court’s registry $2,780,232.02. The disputed funds were collected through the enforcement of Jefferson Parish ordinance, Section 36- 320, et seq., titled “School Bus Safety Enforcement Program for Detecting Violations of Overtaking and Passing School Buses” (“SBSEP”). The Louisiana Supreme Court previously affirmed the trial court’s initial decision that found the SBSEP unconstitutional because it violated Article VI, Section 5 (G) and Article VII, Section 10 (A) of the Louisiana Constitution. The class action petitioners, William Mellor, et al., then moved for summary judgment seeking “the immediate return of their property in the possession of these two government entities... .” The trial court granted their summary judgment and ordered the defendants to remit the aforementioned funds into the registry of the court. Defendants sought an appeal and challenged the trial court’s authority to order them to remit the funds into the court’s registry. The court of appeal found that defendants improperly sought an appeal of an interlocutory judgment. The defendants’ later attempts to seek supervisory review of the trial court’s judgment and order were denied as untimely. The Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction to review the merits of the trial court’s order was the issue this case presented for review. The Supreme Court found that while it lacked appellate jurisdiction to review the merits of the trial court’s order, it did authority to exercise supervisory jurisdiction under Article V, Section 5 (A) of the Louisiana Constitution. "Even if the petitioners are entitled to a judgment in their favor, the trial court overstepped its authority in ordering defendants to remit funds into the court’s registry, as this unconstitutionally intrudes upon their delegated responsibility to appropriate funds, pursuant to Article XII, Section 10 of the Louisiana Constitution and Louisiana Revised Statute 13:5109 B (2)." The Court affirmed those lower court judgments properly before it. However, in exercising its plenary supervisory jurisdiction, the Supreme Court further found the trial court’s order to remit funds into its registry violated the aforementioned constitutional provisions. The Court vacated that order. View "Mellor, et al. v. Jefferson Parish, et al." on Justia Law
Menard v. Targa Resources, L.L.C.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit certified a question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The questions related to claims made by Kirk Menard, who worked as an environmental, safety, and health specialist at Targa Resources, LLC’s Venice, Louisiana plant. His job duties included ensuring Targa complied with various state and federal environmental and safety standards. Menard reported to two individuals: his “official supervisor,” David Smith, who resided at another facility, and an “indirect supervisor,” Ted Keller, who served as an area manager for the Venice plant. Menard’s indirect supervisor, in turn, reported to Perry Berthelot, a Targa District Manager. In a conference call, Menard reported that the total suspended solids in certain recent water samples exceeded regulatory limits. At the end of the call, Berthelot told Menard to call him back to discuss the plan for rectifying these exceedances. Menard obliged, and he alleged Berthelot told him he should dilute the sewage samples with bottled water. Menard claimed that in response he nervously laughed and said, “no, we’re going to correct it the right way.” The federal appellate court asked the Louisiana Supreme Court: (1) whether refusals to engage in illegal or environmentally damaging activities were “disclosures” under the current version of the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Statute ("LEWS"); and (2) whether LEWS afforded protection to an employee who reports to his supervisor an activity, policy, or practice of an employer which he reasonably believes is in violation of an environmental law, rule, or regulation, where reporting violations of environmental law, rules, or regulations, is a part of the employee’s normal job responsibilities. The Supreme Court responded in the affirmative to both questions. View "Menard v. Targa Resources, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Jameson v. Montgomery, et al.
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider the continuing validity of the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity, adopted in Knapper v. Connick, 681 So. 2d 944 (1996). This case presented the issue of whether Louisiana law recognized a cause of action for claims asserted against an assistant district attorney (“ADA”), who, during the plea and sentencing phase of a prosecution, misrepresents, either directly or by omission, a victim’s preference as to the sentence to be imposed upon a defendant, and thereafter, attempts to conceal this alleged misconduct. A secondary question concerned whether a cause of action could be maintained against the district attorney (“DA”) who employed the ADA, under a theory of vicarious liability or for employment-related claims. The Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding in Knapper and further found that, under the circumstances of this case, both the ADA and the DA were entitled to immunity. The Court thus found that the lower courts erred in overruling the defendants’ peremptory exception of no cause of action. View "Jameson v. Montgomery, et al." on Justia Law
Pineville City Court, et al. v. City of Pineville, et al.
The Pineville City Court was fully funded by the City of Pineville. This funding included amounts for the salaries of three clerk positions and accompanying human resources services. In turn, the City Court reimbursed the City for forty-percent of those expenses. In November 2020, the Pineville City Court informed the City that it would no longer reimburse the forty- percent as it had done in the past. Thereafter, the City sent notice that it would reduce payments of the clerks’ salaries by forty-percent, cease providing payroll and human resources services, pay only sixty-percent of the clerks’ retirement contributions, and discontinue the clerks’ participation in the city’s Blue Cross health plan. In this mandamus action the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether the court of appeal erred in reversing the trial court’s judgment that granted the City's exception of no cause of action. The plain language of La. R.S. 13:1888 A mandated only a minimum salary amount that must be paid to the city court clerk and deputy clerks. "The governing authorities have discretion to pay more than the mandated minimum salary. A mandamus action is an incorrect vehicle for the demand asserted by Pineville City Court because the underlying duty is not purely ministerial in nature." Accordingly, the Supreme Court found that the trial court correctly granted the exception of no cause of action. View "Pineville City Court, et al. v. City of Pineville, et al." on Justia Law
Crooks, et al. v. Louisiana, Dept. of Nat. Resources
This matter arose from a 2006 class action suit instituted by Steve Crooks and Era Lee Crooks (“Class Plaintiffs”) against the State through the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (“LDNR”) concerning the ownership of riverbanks in the Catahoula Basin and subsequent mineral royalty payments. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to address whether mandamus may lie to compel the State to pay a judgment rendered against it for mineral royalty payments. Finding that the payment of a judgment concerning the return of mineral royalties received by the State required legislative appropriation, an act that is discretionary in nature, the appellate court erred in issuing the writ of mandamus. View "Crooks, et al. v. Louisiana, Dept. of Nat. Resources" on Justia Law
Saloom v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Dev.
The property at issue was part of a larger tract purchased by Clarence Saloom in 1953 during his marriage to Pauline Womac Saloom. The entire tract was about 80 acres and became known as the “Pine Farm.” Plaintiffs were Clarence and Pauline’s three children: Patricia Saloom, Clarence Saloom Jr., and Daniel Saloom. Pauline died in 1973, and her one-half community interest in the Pine Farm was inherited by plaintiffs. A judgment of possession recognizing them as owners of Pauline’s one-half interest in the Pine Farm, subject to a usufruct in Clarence’s favor, was signed in 1974, and recorded in the public land records of Lafayette Parish. About two years later, the Louisiana Department of Highways (now the Department of Transportation and Development (the “state”)), contacted Clarence about purchasing a piece of the Pine Farm in connection with a project to widen and improve La. Highway 339. The instrument identifies Clarence as “husband of Pauline Womac Saloom” but does not mention Pauline’s death or plaintiffs’ inheritance of her interest in the property. Plaintiffs are not identified in the act of sale, did not sign it, and apparently were unaware of it for several years. In 1985, after learning of their father’s 1976 conveyance, plaintiffs hired an attorney who informed the state that plaintiffs owned an undivided one-half interest in the property. In 2015, about twenty years after Clarence’s death, the state began constructing improvements to Highway 339 on the property. Plaintiffs again contacted the state. In a May 18, 2016 letter, plaintiffs’ counsel confirmed the same information he had relayed to the state over thirty years earlier, specifically the state did not purchase all of the property in 1976 because Clarence only owned an undivided one-half interest. The state claimed to have acquired all interests in the property at issue and declined payment for plaintiffs' interest. Plaintiffs thereafter filed suit seeking damages for inverse condemnation. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal judgment reversing the trial court’s judgment and granting the state’s motion for summary judgment was vacated. Because the court of appeal did not consider the state’s remaining arguments in support of its motion and in opposition to plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, the case was remanded the matter to the court of appeal for consideration of the state’s remaining assignments of error. View "Saloom v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Dev." on Justia Law
Carollo v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development
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
Deal v. Perkins et al.
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
Nucor Steel Lousiana, LLC v. St. James Parish School Board et al.
In 2016, Nucor Steel Louisiana, LLC submitted a tax refund claim to St. James Parish School Board and the St. James Parish Tax Agency (collectively the “Collector”). The claim alleged an overpayment of sales and use tax paid pursuant to a full contract price that was rebated. In 2018, the Collector issued a written denial of Nucor’s refund claim. Following the redetermination hearing, the Collector sent Nucor another letter denying the refund claim. Then, on May 24, 2018, just over two years after the Collector received the refund claim, Nucor appealed the denial to the Board of Tax Appeal (“BTA”). The Collector responded by filing peremptory exceptions of prescription, peremption, and res judicata, asserting that Nucor failed to timely appeal under La. R.S. 47:337.81(A)(2). The BTA granted the Collector’s exceptions, finding Paragraph (A)(2) provides “two alternative prescriptive periods for a taxpayer to appeal refund denial.” Because the Collector failed to render a decision within one year of Nucor’s refund claim being filed, Nucor had 180 days, or until July 26, 2017, to appeal. Thus, the BTA found Nucor’s May 24, 2018 appeal untimely. Nucor appealed. The court of appeal reversed, finding that Nucor’s appeal within 90 days of that decision was timely. The court of appeal also found the Collector’s statement to Nucor that it had “ninety (90) calendar days” to appeal amounted to a representation that Nucor relied upon to its detriment. Using the standard set forth in Suire v. Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, 04-1459 (La. 4/12/05), 907 So.2d 37, which only required a reasonable reliance on a representation, the court found the Collector estopped from arguing prescription. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the Collector’s writ application to determine the proper interpretation of the appeal periods in La. R.S. 47:337.81 and to determine the proper standard for evaluating the estoppel and detrimental reliance claims. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the trial court’s ruling on the exceptions. View "Nucor Steel Lousiana, LLC v. St. James Parish School Board et al." on Justia Law
Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, LLC v. Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether the district court had jurisdiction over a claim for penalties against an insurer arising from its failure to provide a defense in workers’ compensation proceedings, and, if so, whether the insurer violated its duties of good faith and fair dealing, thereby making it liable for damages and penalties. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded the district court had jurisdiction over the claim and correctly found that the insurer breached its duties to its insured. However, the Court found the district court’s damage award rose to the level of an abuse of discretion. The judgment of the court of appeal was amended to award damages in favor of Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, LLC and against Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation in the total amount of $61,655.00, representing $20,550.00 in special damages and $41,100.00 in penalties. View "Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, LLC v. Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation" on Justia Law