Appeals court allows release of 3A baseball pairings _lowres

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association headquarters. A state judge has temporarily barred the LHSAA from moving forward with the release of the Class 3A baseball tournament brackets or the start of the 3A baseball tourney.

A wild day that started with a state judge granting a temporay restraining order that blocked the Louisiana High School Athletic Association from releasing its Class 3A baseball playoff bracket ended with an appeals court allowing the 3A pairings to be released without the team in question, Livonia High included.

LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson said he learned at about 7 p.m. that the terms of the restraining order had been lifted, for now, by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

“I don’t know everything about what happened but my understanding is that our attorney (Bradley Lewis) submitted a writ to the court of the appeals,” Henderson said. “He (Lewis) cited a past case involving another school in which the courts ruled that the parents didn’t have any standing to interfere with the workings of an organization like the LHSAA.”

District Judge Todd Hernandez’s temporary restraining order came after a lawsuit was filed earlier Tuesday by the parents of seven Livonia High baseball players, including a freshman declared ineligible last week by the LHSAA based on its transfer rules. The six other players are seniors.

Livonia was ordered to forfeit 18 baseball games that the freshman played, which effectively put the team out of the playoffs.

The LHSAA asked the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review Hernandez’s ruling after the TRO was granted.

Ty Gurr, one of the seniors on whose behalf the suit was filed, said he just doesn’t want to see all the team’s hard work and time spent practicing and perfecting their game go to waste.

“This means everything to us,” he said. “We just want to play baseball.”

The LHSAA first released the pairings for teams participating in baseball playoffs in five other classes at noon, leaving out Class 3A and offering a note to schools saying the 3A release was delayed. Those pairings are now available on the LHSAA website.

An identical suit filed Monday in the 18th Judicial District Court was transferred Tuesday by state District Judge Alvin Batiste to the 19th JDC.

The LHSAA last week ordered Livonia to forfeit not only 18 baseball games but also seven football games in which the freshman played. The football sanctions included returning the Class 3A runner-up trophy the school won in football and gate receipts from three playoff games.

Before the forfeits, the Livonia baseball team was 22-4 and was No. 10 in the LHSAA’s unofficial power rankings for Class 3A.

“Because of this mandated forfeiture, Livonia High School’s baseball team which was ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, and was on pace to being named one of the top seeds in the upcoming Class 3A playoffs, is now not eligible to participate,” the suit states.

The suit claims the LHSAA misapplied its transfer rules when it ruled the freshman student ineligible.

“They have a rule, they didn’t apply the rule or they misapplied it and I think once the courts hear the facts and circumstances surrounding this young man, his place of residence, Livonia will prevail,” said Robert “Rob” Marionneaux Jr., an attorney for the parents who filed the suit.

“We simply need a venue and a hearing on it and we need the facts to be aired out, otherwise the High School Athletic Association does what it wants,” he added.

The freshman’s mother, Tessie M. Mouton, and biological father were never married and never filed any custody proceedings in any court regarding his custody arrangement, the suit indicates.

Mouton and her son currently live with her niece in the Pointe Coupee Parish town of Livonia. The mother and son previously lived with several family members, all in Livonia and the outlying area.

The student attended seventh and eighth grade at Opelousas Catholic High School in St. Landry Parish, which is not in the same parish or attendance zone as Livonia High.

Mouton drove him back and forth from Livonia to Opelousas while he was enrolled at Opelousas Catholic.

“Due to the difficulty of transporting her son ..., family hardships, financial constraints and other economic burdens, Mrs. Mouton chose to enroll (her son) in the public school located less than one half mile from her residence for the start of his ninth grade school term,” the suit says.

Based on its finding of a transfer rule violation, the LHSAA said he will be required to sit out seven football games and 18 baseball games in 2014-15.

Advocate staff writers Terry L. Jones and Robin Fambrough contributed to this report.