A long-running and expensive legal dispute between Gretna and a homeowner over a fence the city said was 2 feet too tall could soon be at an end.
John Litchfield, a private attorney representing the city, said both sides have ironed out an agreement to settle seven lawsuits in state and federal courts.
The Gretna City Council discussed the settlement Wednesday night but took no action.
Other than calling it an “amicable” solution, the city has not released any details about the settlement. Litchfield said it should be finalized in the next couple of weeks.
The battle started in 2010, when the city told Mark Morice, a lawyer, that the fence around his Willow Drive home exceeded the city’s 6-foot height limit by 2 feet.
Morice refused to take it down and was found in violation in Municipal Court. He appealed that decision to state court, but the city tore down his fence before the appeal could be heard.
Morice won his case but said the city refused to compensate him for his fence and other damages. He also sued the city for not presenting public records in a timely manner related to his request to find out whether Gretna City Attorney Mark Morgan also had a fence that exceeded the limit.
In late 2011, Morice erected a black tarp around his property and painted it with Christmas symbols, a protest he said amounted to a legal, temporary holiday decoration.
Today, a bare wooden fence features writing criticizing the city for tearing down the original structure.
The two sides have battled both in state court, with four suits over public records and a fraud suit over the $1,850 lien the city put on Morice’s property, and in federal court, where Morice filed suits saying the city violated his civil rights.
At one point just over a year ago, the dispute was estimated to have cost the city $200,000. Both sides have been accused of drawing out the dispute, but periodic attempts to settle it have failed.
In late 2014, 24th Judicial District Court Judge Scott Schlegel ruled in favor of Morice on the records request, though he said the city wasn’t acting capriciously or unreasonably when it failed to properly respond to Morice’s records request within five days.
The city contends it didn’t deny Morice access to records, just that it didn’t respond in writing. The records request cases are all on appeal before the state’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.
Schlegel also made a point of saying Morice’s legal fees weren’t as high as he claimed because he was acting as his own attorney much of the time and that his ruling was in no way a judgment about the fence that started it all.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.