BURNS: Jeff Landry Beats Larry Bankston, Again, But Their Court Fight Still Isn’t Over

Editor’s Note: A guest post by our buddy Robert Burns, crossposted at his own site Sound Off, Louisiana, covers the latest in the headache-inducing court case by which former federal inmate, and ex-executive counsel for the State Licensing Board of Contractors, Larry Bankston sued Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry over the latter’s refusal to sanction his contract renewal. This after Bankston, in an interim role, had blown up a major program management contract for flood recovery under very suspicious circumstances. For further reference, click here.

When Attorney General Jeff Landry was first elected in 2015, a number of legal contracts quickly came up for renewal in 2016.  Landry perfunctorily approved many of the contracts with the intent of reviewing them all when they came back up for renewal.

One of those contracts was that of convicted felon and former State Sen. Larry S. Bankston, who was sentenced to 41 months in Federal Prison and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine for his role in agreeing to stonewall a measure in a State Senate Committee which he chaired in order to benefit Fred Goodson.  The FBI recorded Bankston making several incriminating statements on wire taps conducted during the fourth and final term of former Gov. Edwin Washington Edwards, to wit:

09/19/94:

 “I haven’t made a nickel off this, and I wasn’t going to let this get past me.……I don’t want to be your lawyer!  I, being your lawyer, all you can get paid for is your time.  You can’t get compensated adequately as a lawyer.  I can protect you from those guys (Players Casino).  <Upon being asked how Bankston could provide such “protection?”>…….Because of who I am!  There are some other people from Louisiana that (sic) will need to be taken care of as a result of what the (Indian) Chief tells me to do.”

09/30/94:

“We’ll take care of it, everybody who needs to be taken care of.   <Bankston’s response to being told, “We’re going to give you 5%, and you can make the crooked ways straight.”“And I’ll, I can do that.”

10/31/94:

“I don’t want to be involved with people who f—— tape record people’s phone calls.…..The Chief is in f—— never never land….The thing is going to blow up, and I don’t want to be involved when it blows up.”

12/28/94:

“My wife is about to choke me.  She (Bankston’s wife) said ‘where is all this happening?’  The worst thing about this, Fred (Goodson) is that I’m married to a CPA.  Nothing worse than a CPA for a wife.  I mean she understands….”

Landry became concerned that, with Bankston’s checkered past, he was not an appropriate choice to continue as legal counsel for the Louisiana State Board of Contractors.  He therefore declined to renew Bankston’s legal contract with that Board.  Bankston then filed suit against Landry stating that Landry had to provide reasons for his failure to renew Bankston’s contract.  Landry had little difficulty supplying Bankston with such reasons, to wit:

Meanwhile, the Contractor’s Board, which had initially defended trying to maintain Bankston as its attorney (quite likely at the direct behest of Gov. John Bel Edwards) decided it simply wanted to move on.  Accordingly, it hired a well-respected construction law attorney (Kevin Landreneau).  Landry quickly approved Landreneau’s contract.

In addition to Landry supplying the reasons Bankston requested, Landry was also busy in Judge Todd Hernandez’s courtroom fending off Gov. Edwards’ steadfast resolve to maintain language in state contracts forbidding so-called discrimination entailing transgendered folk which dealt almost exclusively with those folk using the public restroom of their choice (i.e. a male who merely “identified” as a female would be free to utilize the ladies room at public facilities).  Sound Off Louisiana‘s Robert Burns attended those courtroom hearings and heard Judge Hernandez state, “It sure seems much of the arguments I’m hearing revolve around bathrooms.”  Landry ultimately prevailed in that case and, importantly, Hernandez ruled that final contract approval authority is vested in the Attorney General and NOT the Governor.  Edwards argued that Landry’s role was merely “ministerial” and that he had no choice but to rubber stamp contracts which Edwards submitted to Landry for approval.

So, with Landry having supplied the reasons for his rejection of Bankston’s contract, the Contractor Board having hired a new attorney, Landry having approved that new attorney, and Hernandez’s ruling that it is Landry, and not Edwards, who has the authority to approve and reject legal contracts, Bankston’s suit against Landry would clearly seem moot, no?  Our good friend Scott McKay, publisher of The Hayride, stated as much in the final paragraph of his excellent feature on the matter to that point.  Let’s repeat his final paragraph just for emphasis:

“So much for the suit, it would seem. But at least it’ll go on until next Friday at which point we’ve got to figure Fields will dismiss it. What else can he do?”

McKay’s excellent assessment notwithstanding, Burns has considerable first-hand experience with both Bankston and Fields (even to the point of arguing a full-blown case pro se with Fields as Judge and Bankston as opposing counsel).  Suffice to say Burns knew form that experience that, with Bankston’s hard head and the fact that Fields’ deployment of common sense simply not being his forte, the suit would not be dismissed as McKay predicted.  What happened instead is Bankston, through his attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, sought to amend his suit.  Meanwhile, Landry filed a Declinatory Exception basically arguing the same common sense McKay espoused above.  In a nutshell, Landry argued the case was in fact now “moot,” (common sense would dictate as much, no?) and therefore Judge Fields lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the matter.  As Burns could have easily predicted from his own experience with the tag-team of Fields and Bankston, Fields denied Landry’s exception.  Thereafter, Landry appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Thursday, January 3, 2019, the First Circuit issued its ruling, to wit:

Bankston, continuing to display his infinitely hard head, wasted no time stating, through Pierson, that he’d be appealing the matter to the Louisiana Supreme Court.  Let’s take just a moment to reflect upon the humiliation suffered by Gov. John Bel Edwards during testimony before a U. S. House Committee entailing problematic actions of Bankston just during the brief time he did serve as the Contractor Board attorney during Landry’s tenure.  Here’s that episode:

So, apparently demonstrating the ultimate in masochistic propensities, Gov. Edwards and Larry Bankston are prepared to appear once again before the Louisiana Supreme Court and, upon Landry prevailing yet again, that should make the score Landry 5, Edwards 0. The most frustrating part is that it is our taxpayer dollars that these two buffoons continue to flush right down the toilet on these useless acts of futility!

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