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Capital City Press, L.L.C. v. Louisiana State University System Board of Supervisors

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 30, 2014

CAPITAL CITY PRESS, L.L.C. D/B/A THE ADVOCATE AND KORAN ADDO
v.
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AND HANK DANOS, CHAIRMAN; THE TIMES-PICAYUNE, L.L.C. AND QUINCY HODGES
v.
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AND HANK DANOS, CHAIRMAN

On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court, In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana. Nos. 620353 c/w 620553. Honorable Janice Clark, Judge Presiding.

Page 670

Loretta G. Mince, Alysson L. Mills, New Orleans, Louisiana, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees, Capital City Press, L.L.C. d/b/a The Advocate, Koran Addo, The Times-Picayune, L.L.C., and Quincy Hodges.

Jimmy R. Faircloth, Jr., Barbara Bell Melton, Alexandria, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendants/Appellants, Louisiana State of Supervisors and Hank Danos, Chairman.

BEFORE: PETTIGREW, McDONALD, AND McCLENDON, JJ.

OPINION

Page 671

[2013 1803 La.App. 1 Cir. 2] McCLENDON, J.

This is an appeal of a district court judgment holding the defendants in contempt of court and imposing penalties upon them for failing to comply with a prior judgment ordering the production of certain records under the public records law. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the contempt judgment.[1]

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This matter began with multiple public records requests to and lawsuits against the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors and its former chairman, Hank Danos, (the defendants) relating to the 2012-2013 search by LSU to fill the position of President/Chancellor of the LSU system. On April 1, 2013, Capital City Press, L.L.C. d/b/a The Advocate and Koran Addo filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Declaratory Judgment, and Injunctive Relief Pursuant to the Louisiana Public Records Act, in the 19th Judicial District Court, Docket Number 620,353, which matter was assigned to Division " D" (The Advocate case). Also, on April 1, 2013, Andrea Gallo, editor of " The Daily Reveille," LSU's student newspaper, filed a similar suit in the 19th Judicial District Court, Docket Number 620,364, which was allotted to Division " F" (The Daily Reveille case). On April 8, 2013, The Times-Picayune, L.L.C. and Quincy Hodges filed their similar Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Declaratory Judgment, and Injunctive Relief Pursuant to the Louisiana Public Records Act, in the 19th Judicial District Court, Docket Number 620,553, which was allotted to Division " O" (The Times Picayune case)" By agreement of the parties, The Times-Picayune case was consolidated with The Advocate case in Division " D" and scheduled for trial on April 25. The Daily Reveille case was not joined due to the unavailability of counsel at that time, and The Advocate, The Times-Picayune, and LSU requested that the consolidated cases be transferred into The Daily [2013 1803 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] Reveille case so that the three cases could proceed together to trial on April 30. However, Judge Janice Clark in Division " D" denied the request to transfer the consolidated cases to Division " F." Thus, the trial in the present matter was held on April 25, 2013, after which the district court held that the requested records were public records in accordance with Louisiana's Public Records Act and ordered that the defendants produce the records immediately. A judgment to this effect was signed on April 30, 2013.[2] The judgment also reserved the issue of damages, court costs, and attorney fees for full briefing and adjudication by the district court.

Thereafter, on May 10, 2013, the defendants filed a notice of suspensive appeal that was opposed by The Advocate and

Page 672

The Times Picayune (the plaintiffs). On May 14, 2013, the district court denied the request for a suspensive appeal on the basis that the April 30, 2013 judgment was not a final judgment. Meanwhile, on May 13, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a rule for contempt, contending that, despite the April 30, 2013 judgment that ordered the defendants to " immediately produce" the records and information described in the judgment, the defendants had failed to do so. In response, on May 20, 2013, the defendants filed an Alternative Motion to Stay and Request for Expedited Consideration of Motion, and on May 23, 2013, the district court granted the request for expedited consideration and stayed the matter for fourteen days. Also, on May 20, 2013, the defendants filed an Alternative Motion to Certify Judgment as Final, which was denied as moot by the district court on May 23, 2013, and an Alternative Notice of Intent to Apply for Supervisory Writ, which was also denied as moot on May 23, 2013. Thereafter, on May 28, 2013, the court granted an order allowing the defendants to proceed with their application for supervisory writs, giving them until June 6, 2013, to file their application with the court of appeal, and granting a stay until June 6, 2013.

[2013 1803 La.App. 1 Cir. 4] On June 5, 2013, the plaintiffs notified the district court that, because the defendants were going to file a writ application, they wished to continue their rule for contempt without date. On June 6, 2013, the defendants filed their application for supervisory writs with this court and also requested a stay of the proceedings. On July 12, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a supplemental rule for contempt, asserting that as of that date, the First Circuit Court of Appeal had not yet acted on the writ application, nor had it granted the defendants' request for a stay. Therefore, according to the plaintiffs, the stay expired on June 6, 2013, and because the First ...


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