FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2017-03003,
DIVISION "0" Honorable Piper D. Griffin, Judge
McGoffin Jonathan R. Villien DURIO, McGOFFIN, STAGG &
J. Sallinger Allyson M. Prejean BARRY J. SALLINGER, APLC
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT
L. Herman Mayra L. Scheuermann LAW OFFICES OF FRED L. HERMAN
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE
M. Williams Erin B. Rigsby CHEHARDY, SHERMAN, WILLIAMS,
MURRAY, RECILE, STAKELUM & HAYES, L.L.P. One Galleria
A. Doley COUNSEL FOR INTERVENORS/APPELLEES
composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Joy Cossich
Lobrano, Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods
Cossich Lobrano Judge
Independent Weekly, LLC ("Independent Weekly")
appeals the district court's April 26, 2017 judgment
denying its petition for a writ of mandamus ordering the
clerk of Orleans Parish Civil District Court, Dale Atkins
("Atkins"), to provide it with the records of
previously sealed lawsuits (the "2004 Lawsuit, "
the "2005 Lawsuit, " and the "2006
Lawsuit"; together, the "Lawsuits"). For the
reasons that follow, we affirm the district court's
March 20, 2017, Independent Weekly filed two ex parte motions
to unseal the records of the 2004 Lawsuit and the 2006
Lawsuit. Although they had not been served with the ex parte
motions, the original parties to the Lawsuits (the
"Original Parties, " separately,
"Houghtaling" and "Perret") appeared via
counsel and objected to any portion of the records being
unsealed. The ex parte motions were denied on the grounds
that they were procedurally defective.
days after filing its ex parte motions, on March 30, 2017,
Independent Weekly made a public records request on Atkins
seeking the records in the Lawsuits. Atkins denied the public
records request because "the entirety of the records had
been sealed pursuant to the orders of the district judges
assigned to each of those dockets." Later that same day,
after the public records request was denied, Independent
Weekly filed a petition seeking a writ of mandamus ordering
Atkins to deliver the records of the Lawsuits.
Original Parties appeared at the hearing on the mandamus
petition, seeking to intervene in the action. Although Perret
states, through counsel, that she filed a petition to
intervene on April 17, 2017, the record before this Court
contains only a petition to intervene naming Houghtaling and
an order granting Perret leave to intervene. Nevertheless,
the transcript indicates that the district court allowed both
of the Original Parties to intervene. On April 26, 2017, the
district court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus.
This appeal timely follows.
Weekly assigns several errors-namely, that the district court
erred by allowing Perret to intervene in the mandamus action,
that the district court erred by failing to conduct an
evidentiary hearing prior to denying the petition for a writ
of mandamus, and that the district court erred by failing to
grant the petition for a writ of mandamus. "An appellate
court reviews a trial court's judgment denying a writ of
mandamus under an abuse of discretion standard."
Lewis v. Morrell, 2016-1055, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir.
4/5/17), 215 So.3d 737, 740 (citations omitted).
1, § 22 of the Louisiana Constitution provides that
"[a]ll courts shall be open…." Further,
Article 12, § 3 of the Louisiana Constitution provides
that "[n]o person shall be denied the right to observe
the deliberations of public bodies and examine public
documents, except in cases established by law."
Additionally, the Public Records Act makes "any public
record" not specifically exempted from the Act available
for inspection and reproduction. La. R.S. ...