Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Roper v. Loupe

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 18, 2018

MARY E. ROPER
v.
JOHN CHANDLER LOUPE AND THE CONSOLIDATED GOVERNING BODY OF THE CITY OF BATON ROUGE AND THE PARISH OF EAST BATON ROUGE

          On appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket Number 638, 786 Honorable Timothy E. Kelley, Judge

          Jeffrey K. Cody Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Mary E. Roper

          Murphy J. Foster, III Jacob E. Roussel Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Defendants/ Appellees John Chandler Loupe and the Consolidated Governing Body of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, JJ.

          GUIDRY, J.

         A discharged employee appeals a trial court's award of attorney fees and costs to the prevailing litigants on a special motion to strike in the employee's unsuccessful suit for defamation. For the following reasons, we amend the judgment appealed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In April 2015, Mary E. Roper filed a 25-page petition for damages against John Chandler Loupe and the consolidated governing body of the City of Baton Rouge and the Parish of East Baton Rouge (City-Parish), alleging that Loupe had made numerous false and defamatory statements about her and that members of the City-Parish with the ability to prevent such alleged defamation failed to do so. Loupe and the City-Parish (collectively defendants) answered Roper's petition, raising several affirmative defenses and denying any liability for defamation. The defendants later filed a special motion to strike pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 971. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the defendants' special motion to strike and dismissed all of Roper's claims with prejudice in a judgment signed July 29, 2015.

         On December 21, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to fix costs and for an award of those costs and attorney fees. Following a hearing, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of the defendants, ordering Roper to pay $34, 643.73 in costs and attorney fees. Roper appeals that March 28, 2017 judgment, raising four assignments of error.

         DISCUSSION

         In her first assignment of error, Roper contends that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney fees and costs to the defendants because "[t]here was no determination that [her] lawsuit was baseless or meritless [n]or could the suit have been instituted to chill speech [that] had already occurred." This argument appears to be premised on the intent of the legislature in enacting La. C.C.P. art. 971, which intent is expressed in the enacting legislation as:

The legislature finds and declares that there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for redress of grievances. The legislature finds and declares that it is in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process. To this end, it is the intention of the legislature that the Article enacted pursuant to this Act shall be construed broadly.

1999 La. Acts, No. 734, § 2. Additionally, the courts of this state have further found the legislature's purpose in enacting Article 971 was "to screen out meritless claims pursued to chill one's constitutional rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to freedom of speech and press." See e.g. In re Succession of Carroll, 46, 327, p. 11 (La.App. 2d Cir. 7/20/11), 72 So.3d 384, 390-91, writ not considered, 11-1844 (La. 11/4/11), 75 So.3d 912 (quoting Melius v. Keiffer, 07-0189, p. 2 (La.App. 4th Cir. 3/12/08), 980 So.2d 167, 170, writ not considered, 08-1039 (La. 8/29/08), 989 So.2d 90 and Lee v. Pennington, 02-0381, p. 4 (La.App. 4th Cir. 10/16/02), 830 So.2d 1037, 1041).

         While it has been held that the rules of statutory construction are designed to ascertain and enforce the intent of the legislature and that the paramount consideration in statutory interpretation is ascertainment of the legislative intent and the reason or reasons that prompted the legislature to enact the law, the starting point in the interpretation of any statute remains the language of the statute itself. Red Stick Studio Development, L.L.C. v. State ex rel. Department of EconomicDevelopment, 10-0193, pp. 9-10 (La. 1/19/11), 56 So.3d 181, 187. Thus, when a law is clear and unambiguous and its application does not lead to absurd consequences, the law shall be ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.