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Plaquemines Parish Civil Service Commission v. Plaquemines Parish Council

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

February 14, 2018

PLAQUEMINES PARISH CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, AND CIVIL SERVICE DIRECTOR ELLEN BARROIS
v.
PLAQUEMINES PARISH COUNCIL AND PLAQUEMINES PARISH GOVERNMENT

         APPEAL FROM 25TH JDC, PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES NO. 62-464, DIVISION "A" HONORABLE KEVIN D. CONNER, JUDGE

          VICTOR L. PAPAI, JR. ATTORNEY AT LAW Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants

          DANNIE P. GARRETT III ATTORNEY AT LAW, LLC and MELVIN J. BURMASTER ASSISTANT PARISH ATTORNEY PLAQUEMINES PARISH GOVERNMENT Counsel for Defendants/Appellees

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Roland L. Belsome

          JAMES F. MCKAY III CHIEF JUDGE.

         The Plaquemines Parish Department of Civil Service, the Plaquemines Parish Civil Service Commission[1] and Director Ellen Barrios ("Appellants"), appeal the trial court's January 9, 2017 judgment denying their petition for injunctive relief and finding that the Plaquemines Parish Council Ordinance 15-107, adopted in accordance with the Charter for Local Self-Government for Plaquemines Parish ("Charter")§ 5.03, did not impair the Civil Service's Department's effective and efficient operation in violation of Louisiana Constitution, Art. X§ 13 (B) and was constitutionally valid. Finding no error in the trial court's judgment, we affirm.

         On September 9, 2015, the Plaquemines Parish Civil Service Commission ("the Commission") and its director, Ellen Barrios, brought a verified petition for a temporary restraining order and application for preliminary injunction. In that petition, they prayed for the trial court to issue the temporary restraining order enjoining the Plaquemines Parish Government from closing the Commission's office located at 333 F. Edward Herbert Boulevard, Building 600, in Belle Chasse, to be followed by a preliminary injunction ordering same. On September 10, 2015, the court denied the temporary restraining order prayed for by the Appellants on grounds that they had failed to sufficiently show irreparable injury, loss, or damages. The Plaquemine Parish Council (Council") subsequently intervened as a defendant in this matter becoming defendant-in-intervention. On September 14, 2015, the appellants filed an amended petition alleging that the Council had unconstitutionally overreached its authority under § 5.03 of the Charter by adopting Ordinance 15-107 which ordered the appellants to relocate its offices to 8028 Highway 23, Port Sulphur, Louisiana.

         On February 18, 2016, the trial court denied a Dilatory Exception of Lack of Procedural Capacity brought by the Commission and its director against the Council. In that same Judgment, the trial court also denied a Dilatory Exception of Lack of Procedural Capacity and/or Peremptory Exception of No Right of Action brought by the Council, against the appellants. After being apprised of the pending proceedings, on September 27, 2016, the Louisiana Attorney General's Office waived its presence at trial by a Waiver of Service, pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 1880.

         On October 27 and 28, 2016, a trial on the merits was held concerning the appellants' verified petition for temporary restraining order, and the application for preliminary injunction. The Civil Service Department, by seeking injunctive relief vis-a-vis the temporary restraining order, was seeking to prohibit the enforcement of Ordinance 15-107, which essentially closed the Civil Service Department's Belle Chasse office. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court ordered the parties to file post-trial memoranda by November 7, 2016. The trial court took the matter under advisement and rendered a judgment on January 9, 2017. The judgment reads as follows:

IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED BY THE COURT that for the reasons attached hereto, plaintiffs have failed to prove their claim that the Plaquemine Parish's relocation of the Department of Civil Service from Belle Chasse to Port Sulphur pursuant to Section 5.03 of the Charter for Local Self-Government for Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana is an unlawful infringement by the legislative branch into the constitutionally protected operations of an executive agency, in violation of the Louisiana Constitution Article VI, Section 6, and therefore that claim is DISMISSED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED BY THE COURT that for the reasons attached hereto, plaintiffs have failed to prove their claim that Paragraph 5.03 of the Charter for Local Self-Government for Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, as applied to the proposed relocation of the Department of Civil Service, is unconstitutional in that it impairs the Civil Service Department's ability to perform in an effective and efficient manner as required by Article X, Section 13(B) of the Louisiana Constitution, and therefore, that claim is DISMISSED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERD, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED BY THE COURT that, for the reasons attached hereto, all allegations against defendants Plaquemines Parish Government and Plaquemines Parish Council contained in plaintiff's Verified Petition for Temporary Restraining Order, and the Application for Preliminary Injunction and plaintiff's Amended Petition are hereby DISMISSED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUGED, AND DECREED BY THE COURT that for the reasons attached hereto, the Application for Preliminary Injunction brought by plaintiffs Plaquemines Parish Civil Service Commission and Civil Service Director Ellen Barrois is hereby DISMISSED.

It is from this judgment that the Civil Service Department now appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Louisiana appellate courts review both law and facts. La. Const. art. 5, § 10(B). The applicable standard of review for a factual finding is the manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong standard. To reverse a factfinder's determination under this standard of review, an appellate court must undertake a two-part inquiry: (1) the court must find from the record that a reasonable factual basis does not exist for the finding of the trier of fact; and (2) the court must further determine the record establishes the finding is clearly wrong. Stobart v. State, Dep't of Transp. and Development, 617 So.2d 880, 882 (La. 1993). Ultimately, the issue to be resolved by the reviewing court is not whether the trier of fact was right or wrong, but whether the factfinder's conclusion was a reasonable one. Id. If the factual findings are reasonable in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, a reviewing court may not reverse even though convinced that had it ...


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