The decision to toss a lawsuit challenging the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana into the city of Baton Rouge was upheld Monday in a ruling issued by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
Last year, after the mall was annexed into the city of Baton Rouge, preventing its revenue from being collected by the proposed city of St. George, conservative activist and former legislator Woody Jenkins filed suit, calling the annexation illegal and unreasonable.
A state court judge ruled that Jenkins did not have legal standing to sue because he lives in the city of Baton Rouge and is unaffected by the annexation, which means the merits of the case presented in his lawsuit have never been argued in court.
Jenkins filed an appeal, but the three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit unanimously agreed with the lower court.
“We disagree with the assertion that mere citizenship is sufficient to create a right of action,” the ruling states. “Further, having decided that the evidence presented by defendants overwhelmingly demonstrated that Mr. Jenkins has no ‘real and actual personal stake’ in the outcome of the annexation, it is evident that he has no right of action to contest the annexation.”
Mary Olive Pierson, an attorney representing East Baton Rouge Parish in the lawsuit, said securing the Mall of Louisiana is a “tremendous victory” in the city-parish’s efforts to protect itself from the looming threat of the new city of St. George. Annexing the mall, among other properties and businesses, has dramatically reduced St. George leaders’ proposed budget for the new city, which would rely mostly on sales taxes generated from businesses in the area.
“The real victory is that those people made a business decision and said they’d rather be in Baton Rouge,” Pierson said.
Jenkins said Monday afternoon that he may ask for the appellate court to rehear the case before he appeals to the Louisiana Supreme Court. He said he thinks the 1st Circuit based some of its conclusions on errors of fact, which warrants reconsideration.
Jenkins filed the suit in August on the basis that the annexation of the mall was unreasonable because it excluded the anchor stores at the mall and was drawn around other properties. He also said the addition of the mall into the city of Baton Rouge would dilute the coverage of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
He said since BRPD protects the city of Baton Rouge, where he lives, he would be affected by the annexation. But he also contends that under the Baton Rouge Plan of Government, any resident in the parish is allowed to challenge an annexation.
Pierson argued that Jenkins’ interest was politically motivated and that he is unaffected by the annexation and has no standing to challenge it. She argued, and the courts agreed, that only people living or working in the annexed properties have a right to challenge the action.
The Mall of Louisiana is one of about 10 square miles of various properties that were annexed into the city of Baton Rouge last year out of an area that was previously included in the proposed St. George boundaries.