A federal judge has rejected Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts’ bid to have political consultant Greg Buisson pay his legal bills stemming from a lawsuit that was thrown out of court last year.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ruled Tuesday that even though she found Buisson’s suit alleging Roberts had retaliated against him through a parish ordinance was without merit, it was not frivolous.
“While this argument was not ultimately successful, neither was it entirely groundless,” Milazzo wrote.
Buisson claimed that an ordinance proposed by Roberts and passed by the Parish Council in 2016 was targeted at him. The ordinance banned the parish from entering into contracts with any company owned by a consultant who had represented a candidate during the prior election cycle.
Buisson, who had the contract to supply Jefferson with grandstands for Mardi Gras parade viewing, had represented Louis Congemi in the 2015 council election that Roberts won. That race kicked off with Congemi’s unsuccessful bid to get Roberts disqualified over non-payment of taxes.
Buisson said the ordinance, which the council suspended soon after it was passed because of the lawsuit, was clearly meant to punish him for representing Roberts’ opponent.
But Milazzo ruled in January 2017 that Roberts could not be found liable for damages because he was covered by legislative immunity, and in July she found that Buisson could not prove he had suffered financial harm because of the ordinance, which was in effect for only a short time.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Milazzo wrote that although Roberts’ lawyers argued Buisson showed “personal animus” by pressing on with the suit even though the ordinance wasn’t being enforced, “the court will not countenance (Roberts’) own apparent vendetta against (Buisson) with an award of attorney fees."
Buisson's claims against Roberts "may have ultimately failed on a legal basis, but they do not represent the type of factually groundless or vexatious litigation Congress intended to discourage,” she wrote.