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Casimer v. Connick

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

June 27, 2018

BRETT S. CASIMER
v.
PAUL D. CONNICK, JR., DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE 24TH JDC; PARISH OF JEFFERSON STATE OF LOUISIANA

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 766-414, DIVISION "P" HONORABLE LEE V. FAULKNER, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, BRETT S. CASIMER In Proper Person

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, PAUL D. CONNICK, JR., DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE 24TH JDC; PARISH OF JEFFERSON STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux David B. Wheeler

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Robert A. Chaisson, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          ROBERT A. CHAISSON JUDGE.

         In this case arising from a writ of mandamus filed pursuant to a public records request under the Louisiana Public Records Law, La. R.S. 44:01 et seq., Brett Casimer appeals a trial court judgment denying the writ. For the following reasons, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 29, 2011, prior to the institution of the present suit relating to a public records request, Mr. Casimer was charged with aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping. After trial of the criminal matter, the jury returned verdicts of forcible rape and second-degree kidnapping and the trial court sentenced Mr. Casimer to 10 years imprisonment.[1]

         On November 23, 2014, Mr. Casimer filed a public records request with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office requesting a copy of its file for his case. The DA's office informed Mr. Casimer that his file contained 736 pages, 445 photographs, and 13 compact discs (CDs) and quoted a total cost to duplicate the file. Mr. Casimer made payment for the quoted cost, and the DA's office mailed a copy of the record to him on or about May 29, 2015. In correspondence a few months later, Mr. Casimer informed the DA's office that he was unable to access certain portions of his file because some of the CDs were incompatible with his computer; in response, the DA's office informed Mr. Casimer that it was unable to offer any assistance regarding the issue of compatibility. In March 2016, Mr. Casimer informed the DA's office that the duplicate file sent to him was missing 78 documents, 84 photos, and one CD from the total he was initially quoted and for which he had previously paid. The DA's office responded by stating that everything that was in its file of Mr. Casimer's criminal case had been sent to him.

         On November 9, 2016, Mr. Casimer instituted the present suit by filing a Petition for Supervisory Writ of Mandamus directed to the DA's Office requesting that it provide him with a copy of the missing CD (which he believed contained missing photographs of the victim's clothing), copies of certain CDs in a different file format, and any other evidence collected but omitted from his file. No order was issued by the trial court specifically in response to the Petition for Supervisory Writ of Mandamus.

         In addition to the Petition for Supervisory Writ of Mandamus, Mr. Casimer also filed, on the same date, a Motion to Compel, which prayed that the trial court order the DA's Office to provide him with the complete file for his case without delay. In response to the Motion to Compel, on December 12, 2016, the trial court issued an order instructing the DA's Office to provide Mr. Casimer with a copy of his entire file within 30 days or face contempt sanctions.

         On January 18, 2017, the DA's Office filed a written response to the Motion to Compel in which it stated that it believed all materials in its possession responsive to the public records request had been provided to Mr. Casimer and that it had previously provided him with hard copies of the materials contained on the CDs as specified by him. The DA's Office further indicated that upon request and receipt of additional copying costs, it would make his file available to his representative for inspection and copying.

         On February 22, 2017, believing the DA's office continued to withhold evidence relating to the victim's clothing, Mr. Casimer filed an Amended and Supplemental Supervisory Writ of Mandamus, directed to both the DA's Office and the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court, in which he requested full documentation relating to the victim's clothing as well as a contradictory hearing and in camera inspection pursuant to La. R.S. 44:35. In response to the amended writ, the trial court issued an order instructing the DA's Office to provide Mr. Casimer with "[a]ll Photographs and test results of Ms. Wilson's clothing," and setting a contradictory hearing for the Clerk of Court to appear to show cause why it should not produce certain records requested by Mr. Casimer.

         A contradictory hearing on the amended writ was held on May 1, 2017, at which time the Clerk of Court indicated that it was not in possession of any evidence regarding the victim's clothing. The DA's office indicated that from a review of the case file, it did not appear that any of the victim's clothing was taken into evidence by anybody, and specifically stated that it was not in possession of any evidence regarding the victim's clothing. The DA's Office also represented to the trial court that it believed it had turned over the entire contents of Mr. Casimer's file to him. The court granted Mr. Casimer an opportunity to examine ...


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