WARREN MONTGOMERY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR ST. TAMMANY PARISH
ST. TAMMANY PARISH GOVERNMENT, BY AND THROUGH THE ST. TAMMANY PARISH COUNCIL; AND PATRICIA "PAT" BRISTER, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PARISH PRESIDENT
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FIRST CIRCUIT,
PARISH OF ST. TAMMANY
granted writ of certiorari in this case to determine whether
the lower courts erred in finding that the St. Tammany Parish
District Attorney is not legally obligated and entitled to
serve as "legal adviser to the [Parish C]ouncil, [Parish
P]resident and all departments, offices and agencies, and
represent the Parish government in legal
proceedings." For the reasons that follow, we find that
the lower courts did, in fact, err, and we reverse the trial
court's grant of Respondent's Motion for Summary
Judgment. Furthermore, finding that there is no genuine issue
of material fact that the Louisiana Constitution, the laws of
the State, and the St. Tammany Parish Charter mandate that
Applicant is the general attorney for St. Tammany Parish, we
grant Applicant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 11, 2016, Applicant, Warren Montgomery, in his official
capacity as District Attorney for St. Tammany Parish, filed
suit against the St. Tammany Parish Government by and through
the St. Tammany Parish Council, and Patricia "Pat"
Brister in her official capacity as Parish President
(collectively "Respondents"). Applicant sought
declaratory relief to determine whether the District Attorney
is legally obligated and entitled to serve as the legal
advisor to, and litigation counsel for, Respondents and
whether Respondents' operation of an independent legal
department of St. Tammany Parish is contrary to law.
Applicant also sought preliminary and permanent injunctive
relief consistent with the requested declaratory relief.
filed dilatory exceptions of prematurity and unauthorized use
of summary proceeding, as well as peremptory exceptions of no
cause of action and no right of action. Respondents also
answered the petition by denying Applicant's claims and
asserting several affirmative defenses. In the same pleading,
Respondents filed a reconventional demand for declaratory
relief that La. R.S. 42:261-263, La. R.S. 16:2 and Section
4-03 (A) of the St. Tammany Parish Home Rule Charter were
parties briefed the issues, and after a hearing, the trial
court denied Respondents' exceptions of no cause of
action and no right of action, but reserved Respondents'
right to re-urge those exceptions later. The court granted
the Respondents' exceptions of prematurity and improper
use of summary proceeding. The court also granted the
exception of prematurity as to the claim for mandatory
injunctive relief and dismissed that claim without prejudice.
The parties then conducted limited written discovery.
in August and September 2016, the St. Tammany Parish Council
adopted two ordinances (the "Challenged
Ordinances") that changed the nature of the legal
representation of the Parish. As a result, Respondents filed
an amended answer and supplemental peremptory exception of no
cause of action, contending that the new Challenged
Ordinances mooted Applicant's claims.
the matter was scheduled for trial, the parties suggested,
and the trial court allowed, the filing of cross motions for
summary judgment. On September 12, 2016, the trial court
heard Respondents' supplemental peremptory exception of
no cause of action and the cross motions for summary
judgment. The trial court took the matter under advisement,
and then rendered a Judgment and issued Reasons for Judgment
on September 18, 2016, denying Respondents' Supplemental
Exception of No Cause of Action, denying Applicant's
Motion for Summary Judgment, and granting Respondents'
cross Joint Motion for Summary Judgment.
those Reasons for Judgment, the trial court stated, in
[T]he above ordinances [Ordinance Calendar Nos. 5638 and
5644] are determinative of this matter. The Defendants wish
to continue autonomously structuring, organizing and managing
the legal staff as it has for the past ten years. Parish
officials do not wish to relinquish their right to choose who
represents or advises them in legal matters, and rely solely
and exclusively on the District Attorney's office. The
ordinances make that clear. The substance and passage of the
ordinances are within authority granted to Defendants under
the Charter and applicable law and are binding.
On a more practical note, there is obvious concern about
the ability of the District Attorney's office and
parish government officials to work together as a cohesive
force for the betterment of the people of St. Tammany
Parish after this lawsuit if the Parish were forced to
accept the District Attorney as sole legal representative.
With the filing of this action, the District Attorney has
taken on an adversarial position to the Parish Council and
the Parish President that presents a conflict of interest,
not only in this current action but quite possibly in
future actions. Disharmony and distrust would likely be the
natural consequence of these proceedings putting a burden
on both parties that would only make governing the Parish
more difficult, and would not serve the citizens of St.
Tammany Parish well.
Mr. Montgomery as the Plaintiff would bear the burden of
proof at a trial on the merits. To prevail, he must show that
the St. Tammany Parish government is operating a legal
department that is in contravention of law and the Charter,
and further that it [sic] the parish government is preventing
him from performing his duties and exercising his power as
the duly elected District Attorney. Given the ability of a
local government to opt out of the statutory scheme set forth
in La. R.S. 42:261 as provided for in [La.] R.S. 16:2, the
rights and powers set forth in the Home Rule Charter, and the
two pertinent ordinances passed within the power and
authority of the Council, the Court finds that Mr. Montgomery
will be unable to meet that burden.
trial court also found that "it is unnecessary to
examine the constitutional claims for the disposition of this
November 15, 2016, Applicant appealed this decision to the
Court of Appeal, First Circuit. After briefing and oral
argument, on September 26, 2017, the Court of Appeal affirmed
the trial court's judgment, albeit with somewhat
different reasoning. Montgomery v. St. Tammany Par.
Gov't by & through St. Tammany Par.
Council, 2017-0136 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/26/17), 232
So.3d 652. The Court of Appeal found, in pertinent part,
In this case, as in Devall [v. Depaula,
96-1067 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/9/97), 694 So.2d 1137], the Parish
President and Council have reorganized the local government
pursuant to the Home Rule Charter. The St. Tammany Parish
Home Rule Charter, Section 4-12, gives the Council and the
President the power to create, change, alter, consolidate, or
abolish Parish departments, including to reallocate
functions, powers, duties, and responsibilities of positions
in such departments. St. Tammany Parish Home Rule Charter
Section 4-03, providing that the district attorney shall
serve as legal advisor to the council, president and all
departments, offices and agencies and represent the Parish
government in legal proceedings, must be read and construed
within the context of the entirety of the Home Rule Charter
and the powers granted to the STPG, including Section 4-12,
which provides for reorganization of the parish government.
Further, while Section 4-03(A) of the St. Tammany Parish Home
Rule Charter states that the District Attorney
"shall" serve as legal advisor, and
"shall" is mandatory pursuant La. R.S. 1:3, the St.
Tammany Parish Home Rule Charter does not state that the
District Attorney is the "sole" or
"exclusive" general legal advisor to the S[t.]
T[ammany] P[arish] G[overnment]. Likewise, the St. Tammany
Parish Home Rule Charter does not have any express limitation
on the Council's or Parish President's right to
employ their own counsel to provide general legal advice and
services. The limitation is upon the hiring of counsel that
is special or "outside" counsel, which can only be
hired through a written contract approved by a majority of
While Mr. Montgomery asserts that the ruling of the district
court allows the S[t.] T[ammany] P[arish] G[overnment] to
decide when and under what circumstances it can compel the
District Attorney to represent it, we find that the fact that
the S[t.] T[ammany] P[arish] G[overnment] maintains a
separate Legal Department to advise it on civil legal matters
does not mean that the District Attorney has been compelled
to do anything.
We find no genuine issue of material fact that Mr. Montgomery
will be unable to meet his burden to show that the defendants
are operatina civil legal department that is in violation of
the law, or to show that the defendants are preventing him
from performing his duties as district attorney.
Montgomery v. St. Tammany Par. Gov't by & through
St. Tammany Par. Council, 2017-0136, 13-14 (La.App. 1
Cir. 9/26/17), 232 So.3d 652, 660-61.
Applicant timely filed his writ application to this Court. On
January 29, 2018, this Court granted the writ and docketed
the matter for the Court's consideration.
Montgomery, 2017-1811 (La. 1/29/18), 233 So.3d at
case involves interpreting the Constitution, statutes, and a
home rule charter. As we have stated many times before:
The fundamental question in all cases of statutory
interpretation is legislative intent and the ascertainment of
the reason or reasons that prompted the Legislature to enact
the law. The rules of statutory construction are designed to
ascertain and enforce the intent of the Legislature.
Legislation is the solemn expression of legislative will, and
therefore, interpretation of a law involves primarily a
search for the Legislature's intent.
When a law is clear and unambiguous and its application does
not lead to absurd consequences, the law shall be applied as
written and no further interpretation may be made in search
of the intent of the Legislature. When the language of the
law is susceptible of different meanings, it must be
interpreted as having the meaning that best conforms to the
purpose of the law, and the words of law must be given their
generally prevailing meaning. When the words of a law are
ambiguous, their meaning must be sought by examining the
context in which they occur and the text of the law as a
whole, and laws on the same subject matter must be
interpreted in reference to each other.
The meaning and intent of a law is determined by considering
the law in its entirety and all other laws on the same
subject matter and placing a construction on the provision in
question that is consistent with the express terms of the law
and with the obvious intent of the Legislature in enacting
it. The statute must, therefore, be applied and interpreted
in a manner, which is consistent with logic and the presumed
fair purpose and intention of the Legislature in passing it.
This is because the rules of statutory construction require
that the general intent and purpose of the Legislature in
enacting the law must, if possible, be given effect Courts
should give effect to all parts of a statute and should not
give a statute an interpretation that makes any part
superfluous or meaningless, if that result can be avoided. It
is likewise presumed that the intention of the legislative
branch is to achieve a consistent body of law. [Internal
Pumphrey v. City of New Orleans, 2005-0979 (La.
4/4/06, 10-11), 925 So.2d 1202, 1209-10. By analogy, similar
rules apply to interpreting the Constitution and home rule
charter. E. Baton Rouge Par. Sch. Bd. v. Foster,
2002-2799 (La. 6/6/03, 16), 851 So.2d 985, 996.
Louisiana Constitution is the supreme law of the State of
Louisiana, to which all legislative acts must yield. M.J.
Farms, Ltd. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 2007-2371 (La. 7/1/08,
22), 998 So.2d 16, 31-32, amended on reh'g Sept.
19, 2008). As pertains to this matter, the Constitution
Except as otherwise provided by this constitution, a district
attorney, or his designated assistant, shall have charge of
every criminal prosecution by the state in his district, be
the representative of the state before the grand jury in his
district, and be the legal advisor ...