The grand mess over the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority lawsuit just got grander. From a press release making its way into our e-mail…
The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association Friday filed suit in the 19th Judicial District Court against Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell over the state’s lead attorney’s authority to approve the contingency fee contract between the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East and the firm of Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison, LLC.
“LOGA believes the process by which the contract was approved violates the law. The Attorney General acted outside his authority in allowing the board to hire these attorneys. The resolution is vague and does not provide sufficient information to establish a ‘real necessity’ for the hire. Finally, the Constitution requires that any funds from such a judgment must be received by the state treasury, not the board itself,” said LOGA President Don Briggs. “This lawsuit attempts to correct those violations of law and reverse the Attorney General’s approval of that resolution.”
In July, JSHG filed suit on behalf of SLFPA-E against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies. The suit sought the repair of damages to the state’s wetlands, including land loss, erosion and saltwater intrusion, allegedly caused by activity and operations of the energy companies. Prior to filing suit, the SLFPA-E board adopted a resolution authorizing the authority to enter into a contingency fee contract with JSHG and set a range for compensation of 32.5 percent to 22.5 percent of any amount recovered in the lawsuit. Since SLFPA-E was legislatively created and is considered to be a political subdivision of the state, the resolution was sent to and approved by the state’s Attorney General. In an August letter to the Attorney General on LOGA’s behalf, the law firm Mahtook & Lafleur, LLC requested that Caldwell withdraw approval of the resolution approving the contingency fee contract in question. The suit, filed by LOGA in response to the Attorney General’s failure to withdraw approval of the resolution, seeks declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.
“Our members collectively believe that, as the state’s head lawyer, Attorney General Caldwell is responsible for directly hiring and compensating special counsel, rendering his signoff of hiring and compensating counsel by the SLFPA-E board improper,” Briggs said. “Caldwell acted outside his authority in approving the resolution. The law expressly names the Attorney General as counsel for that specific levee board, and the Legislature has never granted any authority to the board to hire its own counsel.”
Louisiana statute specifies that, should the state’s Attorney General and his assistants be unable to represent a political subdivision of the state, the Attorney General would directly hire special counsel on a hourly, rather than contingency fee, basis.
The LOGA suit also alleges the authorizing resolution is vague and does not provide sufficient information to establish the “real necessity” for hiring special counsel, exact hourly rates to be considered for compensation or specific types of damages sought in the SLFPA-E suit. The LOGA suit also asserts the receipt of damages by SLFPA-E would be unconstitutional, as the funds should be received by the state treasury and then legislatively appropriated to flood protection authorities dependant on the project-specific restoration or remediation that may be awarded by the court. Many of the specific areas requiring restoration or remediation in the SLFPA-E suit are projects for which SLFPA-E does not bear the entire cost, but for which the state and flood protection authorities share costs.
For more information on the LOGA and SLFPA-E lawsuits, including reports and documents, please visit: http://loga.la/resources/southeast-flood-protection-authority-lawsuit/.