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The biological mother of a child placed under guardianship with the child’s paternal great-aunt filed a petition to terminate that guardianship and to regain custody of the child. Following a three-day trial, the district court terminated the guardianship and awarded joint custody of the child to the guardian and the biological mother, with the mother designated as the domiciliary custodian. On appeal, the court of appeal reversed the district court judgment, reinstated the guardianship, and remanded the case to the district court for purposes of establishing a visitation schedule for the mother. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to assess whether the correct legal standards were applied by the lower courts, and to review the correctness of the district court’s determination that the guardianship should be terminated. The Court held that the proper standard for determining whether an order of guardianship should be modified or terminated was statutorily prescribed by Article 724 of the Children’s Code, which, in this case, required proof by the movant/mother by “clear and convincing evidence” of “a substantial and material change in the circumstances of the guardian or child” because either “[c]ontinuation of the guardianship is so deleterious to the child as to justify a modification or termination of the relationship” or “the harm likely to be caused from a change in the guardianship is substantially outweighed by the advantages to the child of the modification.” Weighing the evidence in light of that evidentiary burden, the Court agreed with the court of appeal’s assessment that the district court erred in determining that the mother met her burden of proving the guardianship should be terminated. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal reinstating the guardianship order. View "In re: L.M.M., JR." on Justia Law

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The Board of Ethics (“Board”) filed formal charges against respondents, Walter Monsour and Jordan Monsour. Respondents filed separate motions for summary judgment with the Ethics Adjudicatory Board (“EAB”), seeking dismissal of the charges and attaching exhibits in support of their motions for summary judgment. The Board opposed the motions and attached exhibits in support of its opposition. Respondents filed a reply memorandum, arguing the exhibits attached to the Board’s opposition did not constitute competent evidence because they were unsworn, unverified, and not self-proving. The EAB denied respondents’ objections to the Board’s exhibits and admitted them into evidence. At the end of the hearing, the EAB took the motion for summary judgment under advisement. Respondents sought supervisory review of the ruling admitting the exhibits into evidence. The court of appeal found the EAB erred in admitting the Board's exhibits, because these exhibits did not meet the requirements of La. Code Civ. P. arts. 966 and 967. Accordingly, the court reversed the EAB’s ruling and remanded for further proceedings. Two judges dissented in part, and would have allowed the Board, on remand, to submit competent evidence prior to a ruling on the motion for summary judgment. The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the evidence produced in connection with motions for summary judgment in these administrative proceedings had to conform to the same requirements applicable to civil proceedings. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal and remanded the case to the EAB for further proceedings. View "Board of Ethics in the Matter of Jordan Monsour & Walter Monsour" on Justia Law

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Defendant Leroy Jackson was found guilty of armed robbery and two counts of attempted armed robbery based solely on his identification by the two victims, Adrian Maldonado and Wilson Vargas, and an eyewitness to the crimes, Anibal Maldonado. The offenses were committed in 2009, by three armed men. Two of the men wore masks. Defendant was identified as the unmasked man after the witnesses collaborated with an officer to make a computerized composite of him. A detective proposed placing defendant in a photographic lineup based on the composite. The three witnesses then each identified defendant from a photographic lineup. The two victims expressed uncertainty, however, in their identifications to a defense investigator. After defendant was found guilty by the jury, the district court sentenced him to 50 years imprisonment at hard labor as a second-felony offender for armed robbery, and two terms of 24 years imprisonment at hard labor for attempted armed robbery, with the sentences to run concurrently and without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, however, the district court granted defendant a new trial. In ruling, the district court emphasized the problematic nature of cross-racial identifications, and the strong indications here that the identifications were unreliable. The court of appeal reversed. Defendant appealed, arguing he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel was provided with information that undermined the witness identifications, in a case that rested entirely on the witness identifications, but did not use it. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the district court’s ruling that granted defendant a new trial. View "Louisiana v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case was whether a revocation clause, contained within a notarial testament that was found to be void for failure to include an attestation clause, could be valid as an authentic act and thereby revoke two prior testaments, resulting in an intestate succession. Charles Harlan died on November 26, 2015, survived by his second wife, Xiaoping Harlan, and his four adult children from his first marriage. The children filed a petition in the district court, seeking to have the decedent’s March 9, 2000 testament filed and executed and to have Hansel Harlan named as executor of the succession; Xiaoping filed a petition to nullify the probated March 9, 2000 testament, to have Hansel removed as executor, and to have herself appointed as administratrix of the succession. Xiaoping further sought to file a purported notarial testament, executed on June 5, 2012 and containing a revocation of all prior testaments, along with a March 1, 2014 codicil. The district court found no valid revocation. The appellate court ruled that the invalid testament nevertheless met the requirements of La. C.C. art. 1833 so as to qualify as an authentic act, capable of revoking prior testaments pursuant to La. C.C. art. 1607(2). The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the appellate court erred in reversing those parts of the February 24, 2016 and the June 6, 2016 district court judgments, which found that the invalid 2012 testament did not contain a valid authentic act that revoked the March 9, 2000 and the May 24, 2007 testaments, and the appellate court erred in rendering judgments holding that the March 9, 2000 and the May 24, 2007 testaments were revoked by the absolutely null 2012 testament. View "Succession of Charles George Harlan" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the state filed a petition alleging that R.M. committed the felony-grade delinquent act of possession with intent to distribute a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance when he was 15 years old. R.M. appeared to answer the petition and entered a denial of the allegations. Pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(B), the state had 90 days to commence the adjudication. R.M. filed a motion to challenge competency. The juvenile court appointed a panel of doctors to evaluate R.M. The court stayed the proceedings pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832 and set a competency hearing. The court, on its own motion, reset the hearing date several times after R.M. was arrested on a new charge and to give the doctors additional time to evaluate R.M. The court ultimately held the competency hearing on March 17, 2016, and found R.M. competent to proceed based on the doctors’ recommendations. The juvenile court set the adjudication for April 14, but continued the hearing until May 4 because the police officers involved in the case were not served. On May 4, 2016, the parties appeared for the adjudication, and the state made an oral motion to continue because the officers still had not been subpoenaed. In response, R.M. made an oral motion to dismiss the delinquency petition. The trial court granted R.M.’s motion, finding that the competency determination had resulted in unreasonable delay not attributable to any fault of the juvenile. The state sought supervisory review from the court of appeal, which affirmed the juvenile court’s dismissal in a split decision. The juvenile argues in essence that the state was still obligated to seek an extension for good cause, pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(D), although R.M.’s competency was placed at issue and the proceedings were stayed pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832. The court of appeal agreed and found “that the stay pursuant to article 832 did not relieve the State of its duty to request and obtain a good cause extension before the article 877 mandatory time limit expired.” The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court prematurely dismissed the state’s petition. The Court reversed, finding that R.M.s’ motion to dismiss on May 4, 2016 was only 48-days in, close to a month of the 90-day period provided by La.Ch.C. art. 877 remained. View "State of Louisiana in the interest of R.M." on Justia Law

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After the jury could not reach a verdict in relator Landon Quinn’s first trial, the jury in relator’s second trial found him guilty of two counts of second degree murder in connection with the 2009 shooting deaths of Matthew Miller and Ryan McKinley. On the night of the shooting, an eyewitness told police that they would not find any shell casings because the shooter used a revolver. The following day, the eyewitness identified relator as the shooter from a photographic lineup. The eyewitness testified at both trials and unequivocally identified relator as the shooter. The convictions were affirmed on appeal. After direct review was completed, relator sought post-conviction relief on the ground that, inter alia, counsel rendered ineffective assistance at the second trial by failing to utilize a statement obtained from the eyewitness by a defense investigator. Specifically, the eyewitness told the defense investigator that the shooter’s hair was shorter than that depicted in a booking photograph taken at the time of relator’s arrest around 24–48 hours after the shootings. The defense investigator memorialized his interview with the eyewitness in an affidavit that was provided to counsel, who represented relator in his second trial but did not utilize the affidavit or call the investigator to testify. The district court granted relator a new trial after determining counsel at relator’s second trial were in possession of the affidavit and that the defense investigator would have made a compelling witness who could have challenged the strength of the eyewitness identification. The court of appeal denied the state’s writ application, finding the affidavit “strongly suggests that the defendant was mistakenly identified as the perpetrator.” The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding that while the affidavit may have called into question the eyewitness’s ability to accurately discern the style of hair beneath a t-shirt worn over it, the likelihood of a different result if that information had been used at trial appeared conceivable but not substantial, and was insufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome of the second trial. View "Louisiana v. Quinn" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the Court of Appeal erred in declaring unconstitutional certain provisions of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 55 of 2014, which applied the formula contained in La.R.S. 17:3995 and allocated Minimum Foundation Program (“MFP”) funding to New Type 2 charter schools. After review, the Supreme Court determined the appellate court erred in declaring the constitution prohibits the payment of MFP funds to New Type 2 charter schools. In this case, the plaintiffs’ view was that local taxes were being used to improve privately-owned facilities to which the public had no title or interest. The Court determined this was a mischaracterization. “[L]ocal revenue is considered in the allotment of MFP funds to public schools. Calculation of the local cost allocation includes sales and ad valorem taxes levied by the local school board. These figures are used to calculate a per-pupil local cost allocation. A public school’s allotment of MFP funding is based on the number of students enrolled in that particular public school irrespective of whether the improvements made to that particular public school are vested in the public or not. Thus, the use of a phrase in an ad valorem tax, such as ‘improvements shall vest in the public’ does not prohibit the use of local revenue in the funding of New Type 2 charter schools and cannot be used as defense to thwart the goal of La. Const. art. VIII, §13(C). Thus, SCR 55 does not transfer actual local tax revenue to charter schools.” Thus, the appellate court’s declaration of unconstitutionality was reversed. View "Iberville Parish Sch. Bd. v. Louisiana Board of Elementary & Secondary Education" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the Court of Appeal erred in declaring unconstitutional certain provisions of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 55 of 2014, which applied the formula contained in La.R.S. 17:3995 and allocated Minimum Foundation Program (“MFP”) funding to New Type 2 charter schools. After review, the Supreme Court determined the appellate court erred in declaring the constitution prohibits the payment of MFP funds to New Type 2 charter schools. In this case, the plaintiffs’ view was that local taxes were being used to improve privately-owned facilities to which the public had no title or interest. The Court determined this was a mischaracterization. “[L]ocal revenue is considered in the allotment of MFP funds to public schools. Calculation of the local cost allocation includes sales and ad valorem taxes levied by the local school board. These figures are used to calculate a per-pupil local cost allocation. A public school’s allotment of MFP funding is based on the number of students enrolled in that particular public school irrespective of whether the improvements made to that particular public school are vested in the public or not. Thus, the use of a phrase in an ad valorem tax, such as ‘improvements shall vest in the public’ does not prohibit the use of local revenue in the funding of New Type 2 charter schools and cannot be used as defense to thwart the goal of La. Const. art. VIII, §13(C). Thus, SCR 55 does not transfer actual local tax revenue to charter schools.” Thus, the appellate court’s declaration of unconstitutionality was reversed. View "Iberville Parish Sch. Bd. v. Louisiana Board of Elementary & Secondary Education" on Justia Law

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This disciplinary proceeding was instituted by the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana (“Commission”) against respondent, Justice of the Peace Jeff Sachse, Ward 1, Livingston Parish. The matter arose out of an anonymous complaint lodged against respondent in April 2013, alleging that he was arrested on several occasions for domestic abuse and simple battery of his now ex-wife, Lisa Rabalais. The Commission alleged that respondent’s conduct violated Canons 1 and 2A of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Respondent was not a lawyer, and was elected to office in 1996. In August 2012, Ms. Rabalais moved out of the matrimonial home. While packing her belongings into the car, the police were summoned to the home in response to complaints by Ms. Rabalais that respondent had grabbed her by the shirt to prevent her from leaving. Ms. Rabalais filed a Petition for Protection from Domestic Abuse citing the August 10th incident. She also alleged that respondent repeatedly contacted her after the incident “by phone[,] email and 3rd parties to get [her] to talk to him” and that he also made “threats” through her places of employment “trying to find [her] to talk.” The Louisiana Supreme Court found respondent violated the aforementioned Canons as alleged by the Commission, and suspended respondent without pay for six months, and ordered him to reimburse and pay to the Commission $3,040.02 in costs. View "In re: Justice of the Peace Jeff Sachse, Ward 1, Livingston Parish" on Justia Law

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At issue in consolidated cases was the correctness of administrative decisions issued by the Louisiana Tax Commission (“Commission”) on review of the valuations, for the 2014 and 2015 tax years, by the Orleans Parish Tax Assessor (“Assessor”) of a low-income housing development, owned by Opportunity Homes Limited Partnership (“Opportunity Homes”), for purposes of assessment of ad valorem taxes. The Commission ruled in favor of Opportunity Homes for both tax years. The administrative decisions were upheld by the district court but reversed by the appellate court. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the assessment values as determined by the Commission. The Court found no conflict between La. R.S. 47:2323, providing parish assessors a choice of three generally recognized appraisal methods to utilize to determine fair market value (the market approach, the cost approach, and/or the income approach), and La. Admin. Code, Title 61, Part V, sec. 303(C), which recommended the use of the income approach for assessing affordable rental housing, such as the Opportunity Homes LIHTC development. The Supreme Court found this case turned purely on the facts established before the Commission, proving that the income approach was the more appropriate method for determining fair market value in this case. Consequently, the appellate court erred in holding that the Commission’s decisions were in violation of statutory provisions, in excess of its authority, based upon unlawful procedures, and legally incorrect. View "Williams v. Opportunity Homes Limited Partnership" on Justia Law