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Regan v. Assistant Attorney General

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

April 7, 2017

MARTIN E. REGAN, JR.
v.
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, JAMES DAVID CALDWELL, JR., AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES D. "BUDDY" CALDWELL, AND THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF LOUISIANA

         On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No. 642, 096 Honorable Timothy E. Kelley, Judge Presiding

          Martin E. Regan, Jr. New Orleans, Louisiana Plaintiff/Appellant In Proper Person

          Christen Denicholas New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Martin E. Regan, Jr.

          E. Wade Shows Grant J. Guillot Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Attorney General James D. "Buddy" Caldwell and the Office of the Attorney General, State of Louisiana

          Timothy S. Madden John A. Cangelosi New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Attorney General James DavidCaldwell, Jr.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., GUI DRY, AND McCLENDON, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         Martin E. Regan, Jr., filed the underlying suit for defamation, alleging that an assistant attorney general made false and defamatory statements about Regan to a newspaper. The defendants in the defamation action, the state's attorney general, the office of the attorney general, and the assistant attorney general who made the statements, filed Special Motions to Strike as authorized by LSA-C.C.P. art. 971. The trial court granted the defendants' motions and dismissed Regan's claims. Regan has appealed. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The underlying facts giving rise to this litigation relate to multiple criminal indictments issued to St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta. Plaintiff, Martin E. Regan, Jr., is one of Peralta's attorneys.

         On May 6, 2015, an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury issued a six-count indictment against Mr. Peralta, charging him with three counts of perjury and three counts of filing false public records. This indictment was based on allegations that Mr. Peralta withdrew money from campaign donations and used the funds to gamble at various casinos.[1] The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office requested the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General in its prosecution of Mr. Peralta, and Assistant Attorneys General David Caldwell, Jr., and Molly Lancaster were present at the May 6, 2015, indictment proceeding in Baton Rouge.[2]

         In a subsequent article published by the New Orleans Advocate on May 21, 2015, the newspaper indicated that Mr. Peralta's attorney, Regan, had sought to have Mr. Peralta's charges dismissed, alleging that Mr. Peralta's civil rights had been violated by the Attorney General's office in prosecuting the case. Specifically, Regan indicated that Mr. Peralta had not been allowed to finish his testimony in the grand jury proceeding and that Mr. Peralta was denied certain pertinent documents during his grand jury testimony.

         In his response to Regan's allegations in the newspaper, Assistant Attorney General Caldwell told the paper that "Regan's latest claims [were] 'a complete waste of time.'" The article, based largely upon statements made by Caldwell, also provided:

Caldwell said Regan deliberately caused a scene outside the grand jury room, growing agitated and cursing loudly at him and Assistant Attorney General Molly Lancaster about the documents. Peralta contends the documents would explain discrepancies on his campaign spending reports, but they were seized - along with his computer - during a raid last summer by the Attorney General's Office.
Regan "was threatening my female assistant, and then I came out to see what was going on, and he threatened me and he told me to step outside, " Caldwell said. "At that point, we have to shut it down. That was intentional on his part."
Caldwell said Regan was "dropping F-bombs" on Lancaster, likely close enough to the grand jury that its members could hear him. Regan "just blew his top, " he said.
"He was pretty hot, " Caldwell added. "I'm bigger than him, and I'm younger than him, but he was hot, and if I had gotten close to him, he might've taken a swing at me."

         In his response published in the same article, Regan called Caldwell a "liar, " maintaining that he "didn't lose his cool and ...


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