Ethics charges filed last year against state Sen. Rob Marionneaux related to his representation of a firm in a legal dispute with LSU constitute an “unmitigated attack on the practice of law,’’ an attorney for Marionneaux argued in court Monday.
“This is a direct, serious assault on lawyers in the Legislature,’’ Marionneaux’s attorney and law partner, Lewis Unglesby, told state District Judge Janice Clark.
Unglesby noted that the Louisiana Supreme Court regulates the practice of law in the state.
But a lawyer representing the Louisiana Board of Ethics countered that Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, is not being treated unfairly.
“We’re not holding Sen. Marionneaux to any different standard. He happens to be an attorney,’’ state ethics administrator Kathleen Allen told the judge.
Allen noted that the Ethics Board has yet to resolve the charges against Marionneaux and said Clark lacked jurisdiction to hear Marionneaux’s suit against the board because it was filed prematurely.
Allen argued the Ethics Adjudicatory Board is the proper forum for the ethics charges to be heard.
Unglesby accused the Ethics Board of being “unbelievably nosy’’ wanting to “look at what’s going on in my law firm.
“The Ethics Board wants to get into lawyers’ business,’’ he argued. “How Unglesby & Marionneaux practices law is none of their business.’’
Clark, a judge in the 19th Judicial District Court, agreed with 18th Judicial District Court Judge James Best, who previously denied the Ethics Board’s exceptions of prematurity and lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Best also ruled that the suit belongs in the 19th JDC.
In addition to retaining jurisdiction over the suit, Clark granted Marionneaux’s motion to consolidate his suits against the Ethics Board - the first involving LSU and another involving the state Department of Transportation and Development.
In both cases, the Ethics Board says Marionneaux failed to timely disclose a business arrangement between his firm and a state agency prior to or within 10 days after initial assistance was given.
Under state law, “no elected official of a governmental entity shall receive or agree to receive any thing of economic value for assisting a person in a transaction or in an appearance in connection with a transaction with the governmental entity or its officials or agencies, unless he files a sworn written statement with the board prior to or within ten days after initial assistance is rendered.”
In the LSU case, Marionneaux is accused of violating the law by failing to report that he was serving as counsel for Bernhard Mechanical Contractors in a dispute between the firm and LSU over a performance-based energy contract.
In the other case, the Ethics Board alleges Marionneaux received or agreed to receive a thing of economic value for assisting Coastal Bridge Company in a case involving DOTD and Boh Bros. Construction Co.
Marionneaux has said Unglesby, not himself, represents Coastal in the litigation against DOTD. He also said he alerted the Ethics Board to the legal arrangement.