GONZALES — Lawyers representing a state judge and his wife need to be more clear about who is being accused of committing wrongdoings when an Ascension Parish rezoning request was denied in August, as well as what wrongdoings those defendants committed, an ad hoc judge said Tuesday.
The lawsuit claiming the problems was filed Aug. 11 by 23rd Judicial District Court Judge Alvin Turner Jr. and his wife, Cherlynn. The suit pertains to a zoning request for property the couple owns in Gonzales.
At a Tuesday hearing, Robert Barnett, attorney for defendants Gonzales Councilmen Gary Lacombe, Timothy Vessel and Terance Irvin, objected to what he called vagueness in the wording of the Turners’ lawsuit.
“As to this day, and even with some depositions taken, I do not know who are the defendants in the case. It names them in the heading — the city, mayor and individual councilmen. They’re not named anywhere in the pleadings,” Barnett said.
Also, Barnett said, “It should also set out who did what.” He added, “I don’t know what has been done wrong and when.”
Presiding over Tuesday’s hearing was Judge Edward Gaidry, a retired judge from the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. Gaidry was appointed to hear the case by the Louisiana Supreme Court because Alvin Turner Jr. is a judge in the 23rd Judicial District.
At different times in the hearing, Gaidry said Barnett was “splitting hairs here” and “obviously you are being very technical, Barnett, and that’s your prerogative.” In the end, Gaidry instructed the attorneys for the Turners, their son, Travis Turner, and Dallon Bush to amend the pleadings to be more specific. The attorneys were given 15 days to do so.
A sheriff’s deputy served the mayor and city councilmen with the suit on Aug. 11, after a Gonzales City Council meeting. At the meeting, Councilmen Lacombe, Vessel and Irvin rejected the Turners’ request to rezone 28 acres of undeveloped property for residential lots at 6,000 square feet each, instead of the property’s current zoning of 8,000-square-foot lots.
The city went on to hire two attorneys to represent the two different factions on the council. Barnett represents the three councilmen who voted against the rezoning request, and attorney Dwight Poirrier represents the two councilmen who voted for the zoning change, Kenny Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux, and Mayor Barney Arceneaux.
At the court hearing Tuesday, Barnett said he was dismissing a motion he filed earlier for a summary judgment in the case, a motion Alvin Turner Jr. and his wife opposed.
On Wednesday, a new trial date will be set. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 16.