On the surface, the state 5th Circuit Court of Appeal's decision this fall to throw out a lower court's ruling against Harahan in its bid to stop a local company from composting on the Mississippi River was a victory for the city.
But the reasoning behind the appeals court's ruling — that neither side ever entered any evidence into the record during the earlier hearing before 24th Judicial District Court Judge Danyelle Taylor — essentially puts the city's request for an injunction back before a judge who has already shot it down once.
Harahan had asked the judge to temporarily halt Wood Materials' composting activities on the Mississippi River batture soon after the company sued it over an city ordinance in June 2016.
Rather that revisit that request, Mayor Tina Miceli said the city now is prepared to defend itself in the original lawsuit over the ordinance, which sought to curtail the company's hours of operation and its dredging activity on the river.
The company's lawsuit, like the city's request for an injunction to halt the composting, is part of a larger battle spurred by residents who have complained for years about sand from Wood Materials trucks and sandpits blowing onto their properties and into their homes.
The composting activity, first allowed by the city's former mayor, Vinnie Mosca, has drawn fire as well, with residents complaining it creates clouds of flies that invade yards and is a violation of zoning ordinances.
A three-judge panel found that none of the evidence presented by either side during the hearing before Taylor had been properly entered into the record. As a result, Judge Hans Liljeberg wrote, the panel didn’t even get into the merits of the appeal.
“The Supreme Court and this court have routinely held that appellate courts may not consider evidence not properly admitted into evidence,” he wrote.
Wood Materials also issued a statement, saying the company "will proceed as required through the trial court again where we believe the correct conclusion was originally determined. Until the case is finalized, we have no further comment.”
No trial date has been set, though the city on Wednesday filed a request that a status hearing be held "in order to determine the course of further proceedings in this matter."
Wood has its own request before the judge to declare that its composting operation is a valid nonconforming use under the city's zoning code.
A separate lawsuit, filed by the residents against the company, is also pending in 24th Judicial District Court.