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Monroe v. New Orleans Police Dep't

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

September 17, 2014

PHILLIP MONROE
v.
NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE NEW ORLEANS CHIEF OF POLICE

APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH. NO. 2012-03864, DIVISION " G-11" . Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge.

Phillip Monroe, PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, Pro se, Angola, LA.

Mary Katherine Kaufman, Assistant City Attorney, Sharonda R. Williams, CITY ATTORNEY, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

(Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Edwin A. Lombard).

OPINION

Page 355

Edwin A. Lombard, J.

[2014-0233 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] The Appellant, Phillip Monroe, seeks review of the July 23, 2013 judgment of the district court rendered after it conducted an ex parte hearing on Mr. Monroe's public records request. Finding that district court did not err in conducting it's hearing we affirm.

Facts & Procedural History

On July 11, 2011, Mr. Monroe sought public records from the Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department (" NOPD" ), Ronal Serpas (" Supt. Serpas" ), pertaining to his criminal case. Mr. Monroe alleges that the NOPD failed to honor his request. Consequently, he filed a petition for a writ of mandamus and civil penalties alleging that the request had been made and that he was seeking the estimated costs for the copies of the requested police reports. The district court did not act upon Mr. Monroe's petition,

Page 356

and thus he filed a supervisory writ application.

On October 8, 2012, in writ application no. 2012-1325, this Court ordered the district court to determine the status of Mr. Monroe's case. After ordering the parties to submit arguments on briefs only, on December 7, 2012, the district court denied relief to Mr. Monroe, who appealed the judgment.

[2014-0233 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] On June 19, 2013, we held, in case no. 2013-CA-259, that Mr. Monroe was entitled to relief, and vacated the district court's December 7, 2012 ruling. The matter was remanded back to the district court to make the writ of mandamus peremptory and order Supt. Serpas to inform Mr. Monroe of the cost of the copies of records that he requested. Additionally, the district court was directed to consider taxing the cost of the proceedings against Supt. Serpas. Lastly, the district court was ordered to hold a contradictory hearing to determine whether Supt. Serpas' refusal to respond was arbitrary or capricious.

On June 24, 2013, Supt. Serpas was ordered by the district court to notify Mr. Monroe of the cost of the copies of the records he requested or show cause on July 19, 2013, why the cost of the copies should not be provided. Moreover, the district court ordered him to show cause on July 19, 2013, as to why it should not consider taxing the costs of the proceedings in compliance with this Court's remand instructions, and whether Supt. Serpas' refusal to respond to Mr. Monroe's public record request was arbitrary and capricious. Lastly, the district court ordered that Mr. Monroe's arguments be made by briefs only; however, Supt. Serpas was ordered to personally appear at the hearing.

Mr. Monroe filed a motion requesting to appear at the hearing as well as " written oral argument" as to why he should be granted civil penalties. The district court denied Mr. Monroe's motion to appear on July 16, 2013. Supt. Serpas and the NOPD filed a response to the rule to show cause and a Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action. The City Attorney's Office mailed the requested documents to Mr. Monroe on July 19, 2013.[1]

[2014-0233 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] At the July 19, 2013 hearing, the district court held that: the NOPD's Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action is granted and that Mr. Monroe's claims be dismissed with prejudice, with each party bearing it's own costs; and Supt. Serpas did not act arbitrary and capriciously by failing to comply with Mr. Monroe's request for the records; thus, Mr. Monroe's civil penalties request was denied. The judgment was signed on July 23, 2013. As a result, Mr. Monroe timely appealed the district court's judgment and raises five assignments of error:

1. The district court abused its discretion in conducting an ex parte hearing when it was ordered to hold the appropriate ...

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