A federal magistrate ruled Wednesday that two Tangipahoa Parish School Board members do not have to give depositions to determine whether they were in contempt of court in the run-up to the parish’s school-tax election in April, court documents show.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys Nelson Taylor and James Gray, who on June 8 subpoenaed board members Sandra Simmons and Brett Duncan to testify in depositions, did not oppose attorney Glen Galbraith’s motion to quash the subpoenas.
In a two-page ruling issued in New Orleans, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan said that a motion to quash a subpoena by the attorney appeared to have merit and granted the request.
Both board members were vocal opponents of four tax proposals that were part of the school system’s court-ordered desegregation plan in a 46-year-old suit.
Voters rejected each of the four tax proposals by overwhelming margins on April 30.
The subpoenas were attempts to intimidate board members who opposed the plan, Simmons said.
“It worked at first,” she said. “When we got the word, sure we were intimidated.”
It was just the latest in a long line of intimidation tactics by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, she said.
“The fact that they didn’t even file an opposition gives rise to the inference that there was some improper purpose,” Galbraith said.
Calls to Nelson Taylor were not returned.
“I am just glad we are able to move past all the ‘contempt’ nonsense,” Duncan said in a Facebook message.
Duncan and Simmons were forced to retain their own counsel, both said.
In a footnote to the ruling, Shushan said that any reconsideration of the motion would have to be filed within 10 days, and that any additional attorneys’ fees incurred by Duncan and Simmons would be borne by the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs’ legal fees in the case are paid by the School Board.
Also Thursday, School Board attorney Charles Patin filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle to accept some modifications to the court-ordered desegregation plan.Those modifications, approved Tuesday by the board, were necessary because voters rejected the funding for some of the construction envisioned in the plan, Patin said in the motion.