Our readers will surely remember that on November 12, there was a Zoom hearing emanating from the courtroom of Judge Billy Morvant of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge on the question of the Louisiana House of Representatives’ petition to reopen the state of Louisiana.
Morvant said a number of things in that hearing, one of which he repeated multiple times. He said that he wanted to get the question of whether the petition was a valid use of the Louisiana Legislature’s power to the Louisiana Supreme Court as fast as possible.
November 12 was a Thursday. Morvant asked the parties, who were essentially the Louisiana Attorney General’s office on behalf of House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Matthew Block, the executive counsel for Gov. John Bel Edwards, on behalf of the governor (Block had a couple of other lawyers with him), to provide him with a ruling he could sign. As we understand it, he had that verbiage sent to him by the end of that day.
Frankly, we dropped the ball a bit on that question, because we just assumed Morvant had signed a ruling. We were waiting to see a copy of the appeal that Attorney General Jeff Landry was to file on behalf of Schexnayder. After all, Morvant invalidated a Louisiana statute as unconstitutional, under a reasoning which is absurd on its face and patently deficient as a matter of statutory analysis. What Morvant said was that because Title 29, Section 724(A) of the Louisiana Revised Statutes holds that a governor’s edicts made under emergency declaration have the force of law, those edicts can’t be overturned by only one house of the legislature. And because Title 29, Section 768(B), which is the part of the public health emergency statute allowing for the petition the House used, allows for an overturning by a petition of only one house of the legislature, it’s in conflict with Section 724.
B. The legislature, in consultation with the public health authority, by a petition signed by a majority of the surviving members of either house, may terminate a state of public health emergency at any time. This petition terminating the public health emergency may establish a period during which no other declaration of public health emergency may be issued. Thereupon, the governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of public health or emergency.
But go to Section 724, and you’ll find this just below the first paragraph Morvant cited…
B.(1) A disaster or emergency, or both, shall be declared by executive order or proclamation of the governor if he finds that a disaster or emergency has occurred or the threat thereof is imminent. The state of disaster or emergency shall continue until the governor finds that the threat of danger has passed or the disaster or emergency has been dealt with to the extent that the emergency conditions no longer exist and terminates the state of disaster or emergency by executive order or proclamation, but no state of disaster or emergency may continue for longer than thirty days unless renewed by the governor.
(2) The legislature, by petition signed by a majority of the surviving members of either house, may terminate a state of disaster or emergency at any time. This petition terminating the state of emergency or disaster may establish a period during which no other declaration of emergency or disaster may be issued. Thereupon, the governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster or emergency.
You’ll notice that other than the reference to the public health authority in RS 29:768(B), it is absolutely identical in language to RS 29:724(B)(2).
We wonder if Morvant even bothered to notice the entry two graphs below the one he cited.
This whole thing is an abject embarrassment. It makes a mockery of the Louisiana judicial system.
But it gets worse. Because after Morvant’s bleatings during the hearing that he wanted to get the case to the Supreme Court as fast as he could, more than two weeks went by before anything of substance happened. It was November 30, or Monday of this week, before Morvant purportedly signed his Final Judgement (in which there are no legal reasons given for any of his actions, including finding RS 29:768(B) unconstitutional).
Yesterday morning a state legislator called Morvant’s office asking for a copy of the order and was told it had been signed. They didn’t have it available.
Remember, this is supposed to be the best judge the 19th JDC has. And you wonder why Louisiana sits at the bottom of all these metrics.