John Barry’s recent column is just as misguided as the unprecedented lawsuit he initiated more than two years ago.
Contrary to Barry’s assertion that “the lawsuit was never the problem,” it is worth noting that three different branches of government have now weighed in on the massive litigation targeting Louisiana’s energy industry filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government have each concluded in one way or another that the levee board was acting outside its authority in bringing the lawsuit.
Last year, Louisiana lawmakers extensively debated and ultimately passed SB469 by Sen. Bret Allain to kill the lawsuit. Contrary to Barry’s claim, Rep. Stuart Bishop did not sponsor this legislation, and he never said it would leave taxpayers on the hook for coastal restoration efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, SB469 reiterated legislative oversight over the legal actions of organizations like levee boards. In the aftermath of the SLFPA-E lawsuit, which was allowed to proceed with the blessing of Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, state lawmakers felt this restatement of existing law was necessary to prevent local governments from being hijacked by self-interested personal injury lawyers looking to file civil litigation under the guise of public interest.
Gov. Bobby Jindal quickly signed the bill into law, leaving no doubt about the executive branch’s opinion of the unwarranted lawsuit. Finally, U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown issued a comprehensive 49-page opinion rejecting the controversial lawsuit altogether, concluding that the board failed to make a valid claim against the energy firms.
Incredibly, despite being denied at every turn, Barry’s handpicked hired gun, private plaintiff’s attorney Gladstone Jones, continues to assert the lawsuit will go on. SLFPA-E held a public meeting last week to discuss whether or not the board should appeal Judge Brown’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit — but the debate was a facade because the board apparently has no control over the litigation that was supposedly brought on their behalf. In a stunning act of bravado, Jones bluntly told board members who questioned the wisdom of appealing the lawsuit, “the board doesn’t get a say so whatsoever.”
Don’t the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct require attorneys to abide by their client’s decisions regarding litigation, not the other way around?
Clearly, something is amiss. When “the board doesn’t get a say” and the will of governor, the legislature and the federal courts don’t matter, how can anyone, including Barry or Jones, honestly argue the continuation of this massive lawsuit is truly in the public’s interest?
executive director, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch