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A.M.C. v. Caldwell

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 15, 2018

A.M.C., ET AL.
v.
JAMES D. CALDWELL, ET AL.

         APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. A-20130052 HONORABLE EDWARD D. RUBIN, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Patricia Hill Wilton Jessica Thornhill Assistant Attorney General Stuart Kyle Duncan Special Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey K. Coreil Jennie P. Pellegrin Carolyn C. Cole NeunerPate COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: Devin George, Registrar of Vital Records Tim Barfield, Sec of State, Dept of Revenue James D. “Buddy” Caldwell, former La. Atty General

          Paul R. Baier Joshua S. Guillory COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: C.S.B. A.M.C.

          Court composed of Billy Howard Ezell, Van H. Kyzar, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          BILLY HOWARD EZELL JUDGE.

         The essential issue in this same-sex marriage, intrafamily adoption case is whether attorney fees and costs were properly awarded following remand of the case to the district court from the supreme court. The Defendants filed an appeal from a judgment of the district court denying their motions to annul judgments rendered on July 10, 2015, and July 25, 2016. They ask for a reversal of the award of attorney fees and costs granted to the Plaintiffs, or in the alternative, an adjustment of the amounts awarded. Lastly, the Defendants claim that the district court erred in failing to grant the Attorney General's exception of no cause of action.

         FACTS

         C.S.B. gave birth to a son, N.B., on August 1, 2004.[1] A.M.C. and C.S.B., a same-sex couple, were lawfully married in Los Angeles, California on August 8, 2008. On July 12, 2013, the Plaintiffs filed a petition for intrafamily adoption asking that the child's stepmother, A.M.C, be allowed to adopt N.B. The Plaintiffs filed an amending petition asking that the Louisiana Attorney General be served with the amending petition so that they can have due process and their marriage be afforded full faith and credit. This was based on the fact that the Attorney General issued an advisory opinion that Louisiana was not required to recognize an adoption by a same-sex couple who were married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

         The district court entered a judgment on January 27, 2014, granting the adoption. The Attorney General filed a suspensive appeal to this court. This court found that the district court erred in holding a hearing on the matter without notifying the Attorney General, since the Attorney General made an appearance in the case and requested notice. In re Adoption of N.B., 14-314 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/11/14), 140 So.3d 1263. This court vacated the judgment of adoption and remanded the case to the district court for a hearing on all issues raised by the parties.

         Following remand, the Plaintiffs added the Attorney General, the Governor, the Secretary of the State of Louisiana Department of Revenue, and the Louisiana State Registrar as defendants in supplemental and amending petitions. In their second supplemental and amending petition, the Plaintiffs added a claim that the Defendants violated their civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         The Attorney General and the Governor filed an exception of no cause of action. The parties also filed cross motions for summary judgment. A hearing on these matters was held on September 15, 2014. The district court granted the Governor's exception of no cause of action but denied the Attorney General's exception of no cause of action. The district court also denied the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. In granting the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, the district court declared Louisiana Constitution Article XII, § 15, the Defense of Marriage Act, and La.Civ.Code arts. 86, 89, and 3520(B) unconstitutional, finding these laws violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of U.S. Const, amend. XIV and the Full Faith and Credit provision found in U.S. Const, art. IV, § 1. The district court further ruled that Louisiana's Revenue Bulletin No. 13-024 (9/13/13) was unconstitutional and ordered the Secretary of the Department of Revenue to allow the Plaintiffs to file their state tax returns as a couple whose marriage is valid and recognized in Louisiana. Additionally, Louisiana was ordered to recognize the Plaintiffs' marriage, validly contracted in California, as lawful in this state. Judgment was signed on September 24, 2014.

         Another judgment was also signed on September 24, 2014, reaffirming its previous judgment of intrafamily adoption. The district court ordered the Registrar of Vital Records to issue a new birth certificate listing A.M.C. as N.B.'s mother. The Defendants, except for the Governor who was dismissed on the exception of no cause of action, filed a suspensive appeal of both judgments to the supreme court.

         After the appeal, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, ___U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 2584 (2015), which held that same-sex couples may not be deprived of the fundamental right to marry under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const, amend. XIV. The Supreme Court further held that states must recognize lawful same-sex marriages performed in other states.

         Subsequently, the federal district court in Robicheaux v. Caldwell, 791 F.3d 616 (5th Cir. 2015), held that La.Const. art. XII, § 15 and La.Civ.Code arts. 89 and 3520(B) were in violation of U.S. Const, amend XIV, and enjoined the State of Louisiana and its officials from enforcing those provisions as well as Louisiana's Revenue Information Bulletin No. 13-024.

         Following these rulings, the supreme court ruled that the Plaintiffs in the present case had received all the relief they requested in their motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Defendants' appeal as moot. A.M.C. v. Caldwell, 14-2090 (La. 7/7/15), 167 So.3d 619. The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

         After remand, the Plaintiffs presented a judgment to the district court which reaffirmed the September 2014 judgment of the district court and once again reiterated the provisions from the two previous judgments. However, this judgment also awarded costs, expenses, and reasonable attorney fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, as prayed for by the Plaintiffs in their second supplemental and amending petition and requested in their motion for summary judgment. A hearing on the amount of attorney fees to be awarded was set for August 3, 2015. The Defendants objected to this judgment, which was signed on July 10, 2015. The Defendants then filed a motion to annul and vacate the July 10, 2015 judgment or, in the alternative, for a new trial. The Plaintiffs filed a motion for attorney fees and costs on July 22, 2015, attaching affidavits from their two attorneys regarding their time spent on the case.

         A hearing on these matters was held on May 9, 2016 before a pro tern judge. Following the hearing, the pro tern judge entered a written "Minute Entry" into the record. He signed the minute entry on May 19, 2016, which was served on all counsel of record. The pro tern judge denied Plaintiffs' request for attorney fees and costs. The pro tern judge affirmed the remainder of the July 10, 2015 judgment.

         On May 25, 2016, the district judge originally assigned to the case signed a judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' claims in their motion for summary judgment as moot following the dictates of the supreme court. He also reinstated the previous order of September 24, 2014, granting the intrafamily adoption. The district judge then ordered that the parties file contradictory motions regarding costs, expenses, and attorney fees.

         The Plaintiffs filed a motion to amend this judgment on June 7, 2016. The district court then entered judgment on July 25, 2016, denying Plaintiffs' request for attorney fees and costs pursuant to the minute entry of the pro tern judge and vacated the judgment rendered on May 25, 2016. On July 26, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a motion for new trial. Defendants filed a petition to annul and vacate the July 25, 2016 judgment or, in the alternative, for a new trial.

         On March 20, 2017, the district court held a hearing on both of Defendants' motions to annul and vacate or for a new trial of the July 10, 2015 and July 25, 2016 judgments. The court also considered Plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees and costs. The district court denied both of Defendants' motions and granted Plaintiffs' motion. Defendants were ordered to pay attorney fees to Paul Baier in the amount of $51, 790.30 and to Joshua Guillory in the amount of $61, 357.61. Defendants were also cast with all court costs. It is from this judgment that Defendants filed the present appeal.

         JURISDICTION

         Defendants claim that the district court lacked jurisdiction to rule on Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief and for a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including an action for attorney fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Defendants claim that the district court had jurisdiction over the adoption proceeding ...


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