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State v. City of New Orleans

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

December 21, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA, THROUGH ORLEANS PARISH CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT, CLERK OF COURT, ARTHUR MORRELL
v.
THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS THROUGH ITS MAYOR, MITCHELL J. LANDRIEU

         APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-09578, DIVISION "C" Honorable Sidney H. Cates, Judge

          Madro Bandaries MADRO BANDARIES, P.L.C. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Adam J. Swensek Chief Deputy City Attorney Rebecca H. Dietz CITY ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins, Judge Paula A. Brown

          Paula A. Brown, Judge

         Appellant, the State of Louisiana, through Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Clerk of Court, Arthur Morrell ("Clerk"), appeals the district court's judgment(s) which denied his Petition for Writ of Mandamus ("the Petition") and Motion for New Trial in favor of Appellee, the City of New Orleans, through its Mayor, Mitchell J. Landrieu ("the City"). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The principal issue on appeal between these parties-whether the City has met its statutory duty to fund the Clerk's Office-has been before this Court on three prior occasions.[1] To explain the extensive history behind this litigation, we adopt many of the facts outlined in State of Louisiana v. City of New Orleans, 2014-0421, pp. 1-4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/1/14), 151 So.3d 714-16 ("Clerk II") as follows:

This matter comes before this Court after a remand to the district court in State ex rel. Orleans Parish Criminal Dist. Court v. City of New Orleans ex rel. Landrieu, 2012-1756 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/23/13), 126 So.3d 762');">126 So.3d 762 [(See Clerk I)]. The facts giving rise to the first appeal were summarized as follows:
During 2012, a budget was proposed for the City to provide funding for the operation of the Clerk's Office, including certain personnel. After the 2012 budget was approved, Chief Administrative Officer, Andrew Kopplin ("Mr. Kopplin"), informed the Clerk of Court in a March 2012 letter that the City intended to "hold back ... over two percent" of the funding appropriated for the Clerk of Court for the 2012 fiscal year "in order to mitigate budget risks to the city." Following the City's Revenue Estimating Conference in June 2012, Mr. Kopplin sent a letter in July to the Clerk of Court indicating that Mr. Kopplin was "directing the city budget office to reduce the [Clerk of Court's] spending authority by 3.8 percent." Mr. Kopplin further stated in the letter that pursuant to his direction the temporary "hold back" would be "a permanent reduction."
In October, the Clerk of Court informed Mr. Kopplin that the Clerk's Office did not have sufficient funds to buy office supplies. Consequently, Mr. Kopplin released additional funds to the Clerk of Court in order to purchase necessary office supplies.
Thereafter, the Clerk of Court filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the trial court alleging the City abused its discretion and acted arbitrarily and capriciously in refusing to fund the operations of the Clerk's Office. The Clerk of Court further alleged that state law mandates the City to pay various funds including the salaries of his office's employees in addition to other operating expenses. The City filed an exception of no cause of action alleging that the remedy of mandamus was not available in this case because the act of approving expenditures is inherently discretionary pursuant to the Home Rule Charter, which the trial court denied. After a trial on the merits, the trial court concluded that the Clerk of Court failed to establish how the City's discretionary decision to reduce the budget of the Clerk's Office under the Home Rule Charter was an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the trial court denied the Clerk of Court's petition for writ of mandamus. The Clerk of Court then filed a motion for new trial, which was denied.

Id., 2012-1756, pp. 2-3, 126 So.3d at 764.

The Clerk of Court appealed the trial court's denial of its request for a mandamus. During the pendency of that appeal, the Louisiana Legislature enacted La. R.S. 13:1381.7. This statute notes that "adequate funding of the office of Clerk of the Criminal District Court for the parish of Orleans is necessary for the efficient performance of the powers and duties required of a judicial officer of the state, " and provides that "[t]he amounts to be appropriated and paid by the city of New Orleans for expenses, including salaries and maintenance of constitutional officers, their deputies, subordinates, and employees shall not be reduced by the city of New Orleans without the consent of the legislature." La. R.S. 13:1381.7 A.
Noting that the purpose of the newly enacted La. R.S. 13:1381.7 is "to clarify the City's duty to pay the appropriated funding of the Clerk's Office as mandated by state statutes" and "the necessity for the City to provide adequate funding to the Clerk's Office, " this Court found the statute "to be interpretive law" with "retroactive application." Id., 2012-1756, p. 9, 126 So.3d at 768. The district court's denial of the Clerk of Court's petition was reversed, and the case was remanded to the district court "for application of La. R.S. 13:1381.7." Id., 2012-1756, p. 10, 126 So.3d at 768.
After remand, on November 18, 2013, the Clerk of Court filed a Motion entitled "Motion and Memorandum in Support to Set for Hearing to Determine Whether Defendant Has Met Its Obligations in Funding the Criminal Clerk of Court In Accordance With the Recent Ruling of the Fourth Circuit" (the "Motion"). In the Motion, the Clerk of Court alleges that the City "continues to refused [sic] to pay 'the salaries of the deputy clerks appointed' by [the Clerk of Court] as required by La. R.S. 13:1372." (emphasis supplied). The Clerk of Court maintains that the City is "activity [sic] seeking to reduce the employees of the Clerk's office." The Clerk of Court attached two documents to its Motion: this Court's opinion and a document entitled "Funding Summary, " which is neither authenticated nor explained in the Motion. In attaching the "Funding Summary" as an exhibit to the Motion, the Clerk of Court merely states that "in current budget allocations presented by the City to the City Council, the City seeks to reduce the Clerk's employee allocation from 90.49 to 83.49 which is in violation of the law, as well as the ruling of the appeal court."
The trial court set a hearing on the Motion for December 10, 2013. The record does not contain an opposition by the City to the Motion, nor a transcript of the hearing of the Motion. By judgment dated December 17, 2013, the trial court found that "La. R.S. 13:1381.7 prohibits the City under the Home Rule Charter from imposing a permanent budgetary hold back [sic]." The judgment then granted "the Petition for Writ of Mandamus" and ordered the City to "appropriate and fully fund the expenses, including the salaries of the employees and officers of the office of the Clerk of Criminal District Court for the 2012 fiscal year." It further finds that "the City of New Orleans is prohibited from imposing a permanent budgetary hold back [sic] of the funding appropriated for the office of the Clerk of Criminal District Court for the 2012 fiscal year."
From this judgment, the City appealed, and in its Petition for Suspensive Appeal, the City maintains that it "has already fully funded the Clerk's Office for 2012 and any funds held back subsequently were paid to the Clerk[, ]" but the City appealed the judgment "out of an abundance of caution." [footnotes omitted]

         In Clerk II, this Court, once again, remanded this matter to the district court to determine whether the City had complied with its statutory obligation to fund the Clerk's Office for the year 2012, and whether the City owed any additional funding to the Clerk's Office for that year. 2014-0421, p. 6, 151 So.3d at 718.

         Clerk II also addressed the district court's conclusion that La. R.S. 13:1381.7 prohibits the City under the Home Rule Charter from imposing a permanent budgetary hold back. To the extent that the district court's ruling found "the City may never later reduce the amounts it originally appropriates when it adopts its budget, " Clerk II vacated the ruling. 2014-0421, p. 8, 151 So.3d at 718. In interpreting ...


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