MICHAEL J. LEGER, II
DANIELLE GOTREAUX LEGER
FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ACADIA,
NO. 2014-10441 HONORABLE DAVID BLANCHET, DISTRICT JUDGE
Lynette Young Feucht Lynette Young Feucht, LLC COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Michael J. Leger, II
Alexander T. Reinboth Emily G. Andrews Assistant Attorneys
General COUNSEL FOR AMICUS CURIAE: Attorney General of the
State of Louisiana
Kay Renegar G. Andrew Veazey Bradford H. Felder Veazey,
Felder & Renegar, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR
INTERVENOR/APPELLANT: John Jerome Fontenot
P. Caswell, Jr. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Danielle
composed of Marc T. Amy, D. Kent Savoie, and Van H. Kyzar,
T. AMY JUDGE
appellant intervened in the underlying divorce proceeding,
seeking a determination of paternity of a minor child born
during the marriage. As the matter was filed more than one
year after the child's birth, the trial court sustained
the legal father's exception of peremption pursuant to
La.Civ.Code art. 198. Although that ruling was affirmed by
prior appeal, the appellant thereafter filed a petition in
which he challenged Article 198 on constitutional grounds.
The trial court denied the appellant's claim. He filed
the present appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
discussed in a previous proceeding before this court, the
minor child who is the subject of these proceedings was born
on August 21, 2012, during the marriage of Danielle Gotreaux
Leger and Michael J. Leger, II. See Leger v. Leger,
15-151 (La.App. 3 Cir. 9/30/15), 215 So.3d 773. However,
after Mr. Leger commenced divorce proceedings in May 2016,
the appellant, John Jerome Fontenot, filed a June 17, 2014
"Petition of Intervention, for Paternity, Custody, and
Alternatively, Visitation[.]" Alleging that DNA testing
established that he was the biological father of the minor
child, he asserted that he had been unable to timely file the
avowal action pursuant to La.Civ.Code art. 198, which
A man may institute an action to establish his paternity of a
child at any time except as provided in this Article. The
action is strictly personal.
If the child is presumed to be the child of another man, the
action shall be instituted within one year from the day of
the birth of the child. Nevertheless, if the mother in bad
faith deceived the father of the child regarding his
paternity, the action shall be instituted within one year
from the day the father knew or should have known of his
paternity, or within ten years from the day of the birth of
the child, whichever first occurs.
In all cases, the action shall be instituted no later than
one year from the day of the death of the child.
time periods in this Article are peremptive. Acknowledging the
passage of more than one year since the birth of the minor
child, Dr. Fontenot suggested that the "bad faith"
exception was applicable to the matter due to his concerns
for the safety of both Ms. Leger and the child if paternity
was revealed. While the trial court permitted Dr.
Fontenot's intervention, the trial court granted Mr.
Leger's exception of peremption on the avowal action.
That determination was affirmed in the initial appeal of this
matter. Leger, 215 So.3d 773. However, the panel
declined to rule on Dr. Fontenot's claim that La.Civ.Code
art. 198 is unconstitutional as the claim was not previously
raised in his pleadings, nor had the trial court ruled on any
such claim. Id.
and under the same docket number as the underlying matter,
Dr. Fontenot filed a "Petition to Declare Louisiana
Civil Code Article 198 Unconstitutional." He named Mr.
and Ms. Leger, as well as the State of Louisiana, through the
Attorney General, as defendants. Dr. Fontenot claimed therein
that although he was the biological father of the minor
child, he "was precluded from bringing an action to
establish paternity pursuant to Civil Code article 198"
as Ms. Leger advised him that she was abused by her husband
and that if Dr. Fontenot "took action to establish
paternity" that she "feared for her life."
However, the trial court denied his prior claim that the
"bad faith" exception to La.Civ.Code art. 198
"should be interpreted to include a mother's plea
for the physical protection of herself and her child from a
physically abusive husband." Dr. Fontenot asserted that,
as a result, his ability to establish paternity "was
precluded by the application of the one-year peremptive
period contained within Louisiana Civil Code article
the "'fundamental right of parents to make decisions
concerning the care, custody, and control of their children[,
]'" Dr. Fontenot alleged in his petition that
"[t]he one-year peremptive period contained within
Louisiana Civil Code article 198 is unconstitutionally short
and an undue interference with [his] constitutionally
protected rights as the parent" of the minor child.
Citing Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 120 S.Ct.
2054 (2000); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 92
S.Ct. 1208 (1972).
and by comparison, Dr. Fontenot explained in his petition
that La.Civ.Code art. 193 "allows a mother to institute
an action to disavow a presumed father and establish the
paternity of the biological father as long as she institutes
the action within two years of the date of the birth
of the child." This disparity, he alleged, violated his
rights of equal protection of both La.Const. art. 1, §
3, and U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. Recognizing the
attendant evaluations for such a complaint, Dr. Fontenot
asserted that "[t]here can be no justification for
granting an extra year for the mother of a child to bring an
action to establish the paternity of the biological father
than for the biological father himself." Therefore, he
"pray[ed] that the one-year peremptive period contained
in Louisiana Civil Code article 198 be declared
unconstitutional, and that he be afforded the right to
establish his paternity and legal custody" of the minor
the filing of the petition, the trial court granted Dr.
Fontenot's motion to voluntarily dismiss the State as a
defendant.  The matter was submitted to the trial
court on memoranda, with the State joining in Mr. Leger's
memorandum to the trial court. Thereafter, the trial court
denied Dr. Fontenot's claim, "finding that Louisiana
Civil Code Article 198 is constitutional."
Fontenot appeals and, as his sole assignment of error,
alleges that: "The trial court erred in holding