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In re The Rouge House, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

May 2, 2018


          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-00692, DIVISION "C" Honorable Sidney H. Cates, Judge.


          Michael G. Bagneris COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

          Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge.

         Plaintiff/Appellant, The Rouge House, LLC ("Rouge House"), appeals the June 13, 2016 judgment of the district court, which granted the motion for summary judgment by the State of Louisiana, Department of Revenue, Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control ("ATC") and dismissed Rouge House's petition seeking review of ATC's denial of Rouge House's application for a Class A Restaurant Beer and Liquor Permit. For the following reasons, we dismiss the appeal.

         The particular issue before this Court stems from a series of filings by Tracy Riley ("Riley"). Riley is the member-manager of Rouge House and is not an attorney.

         Following the district court's denial of a new trial on the motion for summary judgment, Rouge House filed a motion for devolutive appeal on August 22, 2016, through its counsel of record, Ernest L. Jones ("Jones").[1] The district court record contains no formal motion by Jones to withdraw as counsel of record. The record also contains no motion for appeal filed by Riley.

         On July 21, 2017, this Court issued a notice of lodging to the parties advising that the appellant brief was due on August 15, 2017. On September 8, 2017, Riley filed a "motion to enroll as pro se appellant" on behalf of herself and on behalf of Rouge House. In this motion, Riley represented to this Court that she is the appellant in these proceedings, that Jones' "health prevents him from being able to handle this appeal, " and that she wished to "represent herself." On the same date, Riley filed motions for extension of time to file a brief and to reinstate oral argument. Riley attached to these motions a statement signed by Jones asserting that: (1) Jones advised Riley that he "could not handle an appeal and showed her on what to do to protect her rights"; (2) Jones does not recall filing a motion for appeal but he has since seen one bearing his signature; and (3) Jones does not recall receiving this Court's notice of lodging and did not inform Riley of any appellate briefing deadlines.

         Based on Riley's representation that she is an appellant in these proceedings, on September 11, 2017, this Court issued orders enrolling Riley in this matter pro se and allowing an extension of time to file a brief.[2] Riley filed a brief with this Court on October 23, 2017. On further review of the record, however, on February 20, 2018, this Court vacated the aforementioned orders dated September 11, 2017. On February 21, 2018, this Court ordered Riley to show cause why she should be permitted to file a brief, as she was not a party to the underlying litigation before the district court and did not file a motion for appeal.

         On March 5, 2018, Rouge House and Riley filed motions to file amended brief and amend case caption, which were signed by Jones as "attorney in trial court." The motions requested various forms of relief, including: (1) leave to file an amended brief; (2) to add Riley as a plaintiff; (3) for Riley to appear on behalf of Rouge House; (4) to amend the case caption to add Riley as a party; and/or (5) for thirty (30) days for Rouge House to retain an attorney and file an appellant brief.

         On March 7, 2018, this Court ordered Jones to advise this Court whether he remained counsel for Rouge House and/or to withdraw as counsel of record. In the event of Jones' withdrawal as counsel, we permitted Rouge House thirty (30) days within which to retain new counsel and file a brief through counsel.[3] In our March 7, 2018 order, we cautioned Rouge House that if no such brief was filed within this Court's thirty-day deadline, this appeal would be dismissed as abandoned.

         On April 2, 2018, Jones filed a statement with this Court that he does not represent Riley or Rouge House in this appeal, that he advised his clients that he would not represent them on appeal, and that he signed the March 5, 2018 motions at Riley's request but did not intend his signature to be an appearance of record.

         This Court's deadline for Rouge House to file an appellant brief through counsel expired on April 6, 2018. On April 6, 2018, Riley filed a motion for extension of time, requesting an ...

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